Creating Space

Creating Space

Headache“People, especially men, hate being alone with their thoughts,” said reporter Rachel Feltman in The Washington Post.[1] Humans would rather be distracted than endure solitude, according to a recent study. What’s really baffling is we’re talking about a fifteen-minute experiment!

“People usually think of mind-wandering as being a bad thing, because it interrupts when you’re trying to pay attention,” stated Timothy D. Wilson, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia and lead author of the study. “But we wanted to see what happens when mind-wandering is the goal.” The results showed that “people didn’t like it much and found it hard.”

That article amazed me. It’s not how I feel about solitude, but in a way, it shouldn’t be surprising. The modern world has morphed into a culture of distractions with the Internet, smartphones, and social media.

So what? Why does that matter?

Because, as Feltman pointed out, “the ability to let the mind wander has been linked to greater working memory and increased creativity.” A lot of creativity is about forming connections between things in an unfolding sequence.

In another study, MRI brain scans confirmed that certain parts of the brain’s cortex are wildly active when people rest, daydream or allow their minds to wander.[2] It makes sense when you think about dreams. The brain is awake, though our bodies are asleep. In the same way, our minds can work in a different way when we rest. And that activity is linked to creativity.

Beach walkerPsychiatry authority Nancy Andreasen says that creative geniuses in literature, sciences, math, the arts found that their “Ah-ha!” moments came when their minds were at rest—having a bath, taking a light nap, walking on a beach, or as in Newton’s case, sitting under an apple tree. While the thoughts leading up to that moment may incubate over years and even decades, when the mind is resting, connections form. Quiet solace generates a synergy that brings it all together. Eureka!

One pastor put it this way: “Peace is the potting soil for revelation.”

When I allow my mind to rest and cease from all multitasking that easily becomes an unconscious way of life, I actually receive the best fodder for writing. I find simple solutions to complicated problems. And I hear the whispers of God.

Yet, many in our world enjoy and even crave the barrage of overstimulation. Think of the hours people spend on Facebook, texting, or playing video games. When I watch fast-paced movies on large-screen TVs, it feels like brain overload and at times interferes with my ability to fall asleep.

take a breakWith all that soul noise, how does God get a word in edgewise?

To hear His voice better, we need to create space for deeper thoughts and interaction, quiet places free from diversion.

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

In the parable of “The Sower and The Seed,” the seed is the word of God (Mark 4:14). Many would say that the “word of God” is limited to Scripture. But because we have the Holy Spirit, seeds can also represent the fresh words of God. Jesus said to his disciples in John 16: I have many more things to say to you but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own initiative. But whatever He hears, He will speak and He will disclose to you what is to come. Oh, the wonder of that!

God speaks in the foundational language of Scripture, but He builds on that bedrock. He takes the truth in the Word and reiterates it through the Spirit in ways that are fresh, poignant, timely and meaningful to us.

Susan in NZSo if the “seeds”—or fresh words from God—are stolen, or never take root, or get choked out by the cares of the world—it seems that one common denominator could be distraction. If we flick away God’s still small voice like a piece of lint, perhaps He’ll stop talking. On the other hand, if we make ourselves available to Him, maybe He’ll talk to us even more.

I don’t know about you, but I’m taking that walk to spend some time alone with God.

The enemy of our faith is experienced in strategies and schemes. If he can’t take us down with adultery, stealing, idolatry or murder, he’ll use something that’s not even sinful to keep us from knowing God in deeper ways.

Something as simple as distraction.

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[1] “Between solitude and electric shocks, some prefer the latter,” by Rachel Feltman, The Washington Post, July 4, 2014, page A3.

[2] “Secrets of The Creative Brain,” by Nancy C. Andreasen, The Atlantic, July/August 2014, pages 62-75.


  1. Susan, the results of the study soooo make sense! Taking a break, doing something else, emptying my mind truly help me. Thank you for this. Such a great post!