The silence of contemplation

West Waterfall at Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford, IL

“Leisure is a form of silence, not noiselessness.  It is the silence of contemplation such as occurs when we let out minds rest on a rosebud, a child at play, a Divine mystery, or a waterfall.”- Fulton J. Sheen

“The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”- Psalm 58:11

Inspired by a visit to the Portland Japanese Gardens in Oregon, Rockford businessman John Anderson began construction of the Anderson Japanese Gardens in 1978.  Master Craftsman and designer Hoichi Kurisu provided ongoing assistance to the Andersons.  Consequently, Mr. Kurisu transformed the Anderson’s swampy backyard along Spring Creek into a Japanese-style landscape.  In 1998, John and Linda Anderson donated the Gardens to the Rockford Rotary Charitable Association.

Today, the not-for-profit oasis continues to grow and change.  Most importantly, the Anderson Japanese Gardens impart a tranquil setting for replenishment, contemplation, and “slowing.”

In Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul, Bill Hybels suggests none of us functions at our peak when depleted.  So, if you’re telling God what to do or mad at the world, perhaps it’s time to sit down together with God.  Because you’ve lost your bearings on true north, you’re just spinning.  But God’s plan pours new streams of replenishment into your soul.

Thus, Pastor Hybels identifies the biggest bucket-filler in life as walking firmly hand-in-hand with God.   As a result, when you’re really connected with God, you’re quicker to stay on God’s agenda.  Furthermore, being right with God and tuned into Him filters out all extraneous noise.  And spending time with God yields the antidote to one key energy-killer: image management.  It’s simplest and best to follow one agenda only: God’s.

However, spending time with God poses problems for the hurry-sick.  Hence, John Ortberg (The Life You’ve Always Wanted) suggests two practices designed to help us live unhurried lives.  John labels the first practice “slowing.”  He states slowing involves “cultivating patience by deliberately choosing to place ourselves in positions where we simply have to wait.”  For example, Pastor Ortberg asks us to look for the longest line at the grocery store.  Next, get in that line.  Finally, let one person go ahead of you.  Do this for a month.

In conclusion, John offers a second, more traditional practice- solitude.  He notes that an old phrase describes solitude as the “furnace of transformation.”  Therefore, this practice requires relentless perseverance as well as commitment.  Pastor Ortberg finds it helpful to sort this concept into two levels:

  1. brief periods on a regular basis – ideally each day, even at intervals throughout the day
  2. extended periods at greater intervals – half a day, a day, or even a few days

As Henri Nouwen once wrote, “In solitude I get rid of all my scaffolding.”  You practice the silence of contemplation.

About the author

Dave Henning


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