Hedging Thoughts to Hear God

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.”— Psalm 143:8

I had the opportunity to attend a Quiet and Solitude retreat on Saturday.

Hosted at a local Benedictine monastery and retreat center, I went with anticipation to spend time without distractions to grow closer to God. I checked in, met with other participants for some introductions, then went to my room. I spread a towel on the floor, got into some comfy socks, and sat cross-legged on the towel. I had created a holy space.

Having done this before, I knew that I’d have to spend a bit of time getting rid of distracting thoughts in my mind before I could quiet myself and hear God. I tried centering myself in prayer and listening to the pervasive silence. Not a phone, or a voice, or a TV, or any noise came to me. My ears strained to hear a sound, but heard nothing but blissful silence. Life is so noisy, that it is hard to find a place of pure silence. So I had the silence, but my thoughts assaulted my brain. I found I couldn’t turn them off.

So I decided to build an invisible hedge. I ripped out a sheet of notebook paper and tore it into little rectangles. I wrote a thought on each piece of paper– thoughts about people, and things I had to do, and concerns, and ideas, and a host of other things that were rattling around in my brain. Then I laid the papers (about 12) in a row a few feet in front of me, hoping this visual exercise would convince my brain I’d given the thoughts up. But still they came, distracting me even more. So then I gathered them up into a pile and placed them twenty feet across the room at the foot of the door. And there they stayed. Occasionally I had to add a few more thoughts to paper and put them by the door.

Believe it or not, this exercise worked. I literally left my thoughts at the door. After awhile I was able to quiet my heart and mind until there was nothing in there, and that’s when God’s Spirit got to work! I experienced the love, joy, peace, and contentment of time in God’s presence, which far outweighed the prep work.

God’s Spirit comes to me many ways, but I find some of the most enlightening times happen when I am in silence. With no distractions. But it takes work to get there. When I am at home, I think of all the things I have to do–laundry, banking, cleaning, etc… but hedging my thoughts out seemed to help, and I am willing to try it again.

Quiet time with God is precious. Won’t you find a way to hedge your thoughts and spend some time with God today?

Prayer–“God of silence, I often can’t hear your voice because there are too many distractions. Help me to hedge my thoughts away so that I may quiet my heart and listen to what You have to say. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.”

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