With God in solitude
Ruth Haley Barton, guest speaker from Wheaton, IL, engages the audience by emphasizing being "with" God in every moment of our lives during the second main session on Thursday. | Ashleigh Fox/THE CHIMES
In the midst of Torrey it is easy to forget the reason we take three days off of school to hear amazing speakers, spend time in prayer rooms and in fellowship. However, Ruth Haley Barton's afternoon session reminded me of the blessing these days can be, as well as how to bring it into daily life.
Barton is a celebrated speaker, author and founder of the Transforming Center, which seeks the spiritual transformation of Christian leaders. As SMU president Roddy Garcia put it, "Basically, she's a boss." Barton began by explaining the importance of getting in touch with our deepest desires. God loves being with us in ordinary life; he’s with us while we’re studying, working and sitting in chapel. However, he also loves intimate time with no distractions. You would think going to a Christian school it would be easy to do this, but I often find myself distracted. I subconsciously think going to chapel and being in Bible class is enough time with God. But spending quiet time with Him is when I, as well as Barton, feel fully rested.
On her own journey, Barton named her deepest desire when she said, "I just want to be with God!"
Barton explained that her desire to be in touch with God sometimes felt selfish, but Jesus encourages us to tell him what we want. In Luke 18, a blind man calls out to Jesus, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Others following Jesus tried to silence the man, but he was in touch with his desire and spoke out again. Jesus heard him and asked, "What do you want me to do?" Jesus wanted to hear the man's desires and then told him that his faith had healed him.
Barton then asked hundreds of Biolans, "When was the last time you allowed yourself to get in touch with what you most deeply want?"
In her time of discovery, Barton began spending just 10 minutes every day in silence and solitude with God. She wanted to set apart this time to be open in her desires with God. Being transparent about our desires is a very personal and frightening idea, but she encourages us to be raw and vulnerable with God.
I found myself relating to Barton in many ways. It was hard for her to even spend those 10 minutes in solitude, with task upon task coming to mind of what she should be doing instead. I have realized more and more my obsession with being busy. Being on a college campus, there is always something to do, whether it's schoolwork, an intramural game or socializing with friends and hallmates. I have a fear of missing out and find that even when with friends, I am constantly checking social media sites and news sites, always needing to be up to date with what's going on. I find it extremely difficult to set aside time alone with God.
However, Barton's message reminded me that I don't need to feel guilty about taking time for myself to be silent with God. Even in prayer, I spend most of the time praying for my family and friends. Barton challenged me to spend time talking with God about my desires to be with him — no distractions. She confessed that the first year or so of just 10 minutes in silence and solitude was difficult. Satan will try distracting us. However, Barton realized in that time she could be still with God and He still loved her, without doing anything. This journey for her was a revelation of how unconditionally loved she was. By knowing this, she doesn't have to try so hard to impress people and gain approval — she has confidence in who she is in Christ.
Barton ended with an encouragement and challenge "to know your desires to be with God, to know God's love for you ... these are the truest things about you today; it is where your soul is speaking to you. Are you brave enough to be with God with your desire?"