If you ever end up walking 100 miles in 8 days, you’ll realize that you have a lot of time to yourself to just think. Throughout the trip, two topics kept coming to my mind, and I had a lot of time to ponder them. These tropics are time and silence.
During my first night in Portugal, I was introduced to what our team called “Portuguese time.” We were told dinner would be served at 8:30, but Abel told us to be there around 9, because they run on Portuguese time. And even though we made sure to be back from sight-seeing by 8:30, we didn’t eat til 9.
Throughout the trip, this became somewhat of a theme. We’d set a time, and always end up a little before or a little after. Usually a little after. We’d always end up eating dinner much later than we planned…often due to cooking issues such as only having one pot to cook a full dinner for 25 people.
At first, this kind of annoyed me. I like when things go as planned and when things run as scheduled. But I soon grew to love Portuguese time. Why? Because they take time for the things that matter.
A typical dinner on our trip lasted a minimum of two hours, and there was no rush to get from course to course, let alone to finish. Sitting down to eat a meal together didn’t simply mean we nourished our bodies with the food. No. It meant enjoying one another’s company, engaging in conversation, etc. A meal was an event. And it quickly became my favorite part of each day, as we sat around the table sharing life together.
We Americans are so ruled by time and by our schedules. We have our hours set, our appointments made, and if we have free time, we know exactly how we want to use that. When things don’t go as scheduled or when they take longer than we expected, we become frustrated. And while I understand that some things are obviously needed to be run by a schedule, maybe we shouldn’t be so consumed by it.
I think at least for me, I can become so consumed by my busy schedule that I forget to leave time for people. For spontaneous things. And for myself. I schedule every minute away, because for whatever reason, I take pride in being busy.
But maybe I need to start living my life on Portuguese time, leaving hours in my day to devote to talking to people. Maybe dinner shouldn’t be sometime I eat in a rush to get to my next event, but it should be a time I can linger and spend time talking with my family, hearing all about their days.
Giving up time is hard! For many of us, it’s a true sacrifice to carve a few hours out of our day to help someone or do something that wasn’t in our plans. But in the long run, it is the conversations we’ve had and the relationships we’ve developed that matter so much more than the things we cram into the hours of our day.
On one of my last nights at college, I sat on a log overlooking our creek with a good friend. We had spent that past few hours talking about anything and everything, when he looked at me and asked, “Alissa, do you ever just let the conversation rest and sit in silence?” I thought for a moment before heartily saying yes. I then went on to give a five minute explanation as to when those situations occur and who they must be with for it to be comfortable and blah blah blah until I realized that he was laughing at me, because I was doing the exact opposite of just letting the conversation fade out and enjoying the silence. So then we tried it. It was unnatural and funny to me at first because it felt forced. But on the…fourth or fifth try, it finally felt normal. The conversation faded, and there we were, two figures on a log, soaking in the sunset and the sounds of the creek and the smells of spring, and the presence of everything around us. And that’s when it hit me. Oftentimes, I don’t shut up long enough to enjoy the silence.
Coming around full circle to my recent trip, we had a devotion one night on silence and solitude, specifically relating to our hours of walking on the Camino. And although I had never realized it before, those things can be mutually exclusive.
First, you can be in silence, but not in solitude. That’s what happened when my friend and I were sitting on the log, enjoying the evening. We were together, and yet we weren’t talking. This is kind of a cool concept for me, mostly just because I talk so darn much. To be able to be with someone without needing words shows a certain level of comfort and trust and contentment. That person’s presence is enough, and you don’t need words to just fill up the space. So that’s the first aspect.
The second aspect is that you can be in solitude, but not silent. This is the one that really hit me on the Camino. I’d spend hours walking by myself, left with nothing but the gorgeous scenery and my thoughts. But very seldom was I actually silent.
It’s hard for us to shut off our thoughts and just be silent. Be still. But isn’t that exactly what God commands us to do? Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” How often are we actually still, free from all worries and distractions? I know for me, that answer is almost never. But it’s when we are still and silent that God speaks. That’s when we can hear His voice.
I’ll admit that I usually don’t view prayer as a two way conversation with God. I usually view prayer as a time to thank God for his blessings, and ask him to answer certain requests or lift certain burdens. But that’s not all there is to it! He wants to speak to me and to you as well! Maybe we should start silencing our racing minds, and letting Him speak to us and listening what He wants us to hear.
I’ll be the first to admit that while these are two areas in which I have been challenged, I have in no way been able to fully conquer. It’s hard to sacrifice your time and lay aside your schedule to leave room for God to work and bring opportunities to your door. It’s even harder when we have to cross things out and reschedule in order to act on thosse opportunities. It’s equally as hard to slow down and take the time to be still before our Lord and Maker and listen for His voice to speak to us. It’s easy to become distracted and let our minds wander off while we are in a conversation with God. But these things are crucial to growing more like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let’s see what kind of progress and changes we can make in the way we live!