In a world of constant internet access and incessant flow of sensations, most Americans take no time to be alone with their thoughts. In fact, many, according to a University of Virginia study, find such detachment distasteful, so much so they would take mild electric shocks over sitting quietly with no distractions.
Arthur Gordon wrote of a time that feeling life to be stale and flat, his writing efforts fruitless, he sought help from his medical doctor. Detecting no physical issue, the doctor wrote an unusual prescription – Gordon was to spend one day at the place where he was happiest as a child and follow four instructions, each for a three-hour period, with no distractions.
The next morning at the beach, Gordon, opening the first instruction, read, "Listen carefully." Not at all disposed to listen but committed to following doctor’s orders, he did nothing but listen. And hearing the sounds of the sea, he thought of what the sea had taught him – patience, respect, the interdependence of things, etc. And in his reflection, he began to feel a sense of peace.
At 12 noon, he read, "Try reaching back." "Reaching back to what?" he wondered. Then memories of happy times began to occupy his thinking. And, with them, he felt a growing warmth.
At 3 o’clock, he read, "Examine your motives." This triggered thoughts of what he wanted – success, recognition, security – and, owning these desires, he defended them. But, he wondered, would they have something to do with his stagnant situation?
Then, he had an epiphany. "In a flash of certainty," he wrote, "I saw that if one’s motives are wrong, nothing can be right. It makes no difference whether you are a mailman, a hairdresser, an insurance salesman, a housewife – whatever. As long as you feel you are serving others, you do the job well. When you are concerned only with helping yourself, you do it less well – a law as inexorable as gravity."
Finally, at 6 o’clock, he read, "Write your worries in the sand." He knelt and wrote with a piece of broken shell. Then he turned and stepped away knowing the tide would come in.
"The Turn of the Tide" is the title of his story. And my impression is the turn of the tide came for Arthur Gordon when he took the time to be alone with his thoughts and gave the still, small voice of God a chance to speak.
Warner F. Davis is Pastor of Collierville Presbyterian Church, located at 202 West Poplar Ave Warner has released a spiritual memoir titled, "Peace in a Mad Dog World: Finding Security When My Need For Control had Failed Me," through Virtual bookworm Publishing. For more information about his book, visit warnerfrancisdavis.com. For more information about the church, call 853.4226 or go online at collpres.com