For those of us who have used productivity for self-worth, solitude is radical
Jan Johnson

When I take silent retreats, two things always happen

First, something is deconstructed.

A mark of being an enneagram 3 is our insatiable ability to produce, create, and conquer. My goals have goals and my schedule is packed with tasks assigned to projects subservient to many of my life goals.

Yet here I am in the middle of a forest, in the middle of nowhere, where the pace of life has crawled to a stop. I can smell the trees, hear the wind, witness sights and sounds of nature I’ve never noticed before. A breeze blows past my fall jacket.

No phone, no electronics, just Bible and journal in hand–the silence is alarming.

As I sit there in silence for hours, counting my breaths, growing my awareness of God’s presence in and around me, the deconstruction happens.

This deconstruction is something I resisted before. Do you know what angst happens within someone whose greatest joys include the worlds I can create? I am now in a place where no one and nothing needs me. There are no worlds to create or conquer here. Oh, the angst used to be so palpable!

Yet now as I sit calmly, I have learned to welcome the deconstruction that happens over time in the place of solitude.

It is the deconstruction of my identity wrapped up in the things I do. What great tension occurs when an achiever sits in a place where they can literally do nothing but be. And for the length of my solitude, I begin to see the trophies I’ve earned and dreamed of earning suddenly mean nothing. They are nothing to him. Compared to his greatness, there is no trophy I could shine that would compare to his glory.

And so…

I am…just as I am…having nothing before God.

After a few hours, after my heart, mind, and spirit have all crawled to the pace necessary to hear his voice, I finally hear it anew. It is no shout, nor an alarm. It is same voice spoken to Elijah in the cleft of the mountain–a whisper.

Great and mighty things are told in divine whispers.

Like a child who nestles up to the bosom of their mother in the dark, and whose mother whispers messages of her tender love, so God whispers the arrows of his love when our hearts are quiet. These are the messages worthy of epitaphs and biographies, a whisper that could change the entire of my life.

And so I am being created again.

The 3 in me is being made new. Stripped of his medals and trophies, the only banner I carry out from the forest says “the beloved”.

True love and confidence has been forged in the silence.

A 3 goes now in the world knowing who he is. For who he is is found in whose he is. The darkness trembles imagining what worlds he will create because he depends no longer on his trophies for his significance.

This is what happens when 3’s embrace solitude.