Recently, I was encouraged to read “Ordering Your Private World” by Gordon MacDonald. As much as I read these types of book, I can’t believe that I had never heard of it, since it’s been around for years. But as I got into it, I was at first gripped by the subject-matter; then blown away as it tracked so much with my own journey and perspectives.
For me, this book not only affirmed many of my long-held beliefs, but it also rekindled the importance of addressing (and the danger of ignoring) certain disciplines that I was introduced to early on — especially one particular watershed event that occurred in 2000.
MacDonald begins with two key insights around which he builds the remainder of the book. He notes that modern Christian culture doesn’t easily discriminate “between a person of spiritual depth and a person of raw talent.” As a result, “more than a few people can be fooled into thinking they are being influenced by a spiritual giant when in fact they are being manipulated by a dwarf.”
MacDonald writes that he determined to live his life based on discipline and intentionality, seeking to be led by calling. He spends the bulk of the book discussing the topics of our motivation, use of time, wisdom and knowledge, spiritual strength and restoration.
There are so many nuggets of wisdom and insight, I hesitate to attempt a list. But one particular topic floored me as I read it.
In the section on spiritual strength, MacDonald addresses the importance of having “order in the garden,” which is essentially a thriving inner life, centered on Christ. It’s in one of these chapters that he mentions what was one of the most liberating and life-changing “discoveries” for me in the summer of 2000 — silence and solitude.
He even mentions one of the influential authors that led me to that defining discovery — Henri Nouwen. This life-changing event was so dramatic for me that when I was asked to bring the morning message to the church we were attending at the time, I had no other topic to discuss. And I pegged it all off of Nowen’s “Out of Solitude,” along with Chuck Swindoll’s “Intimacy with the Almighty.”
For me, that journey culminated with a four day guided silent retreat led by Fil Anderson of Journey Resources. I suppose that it began months prior — for I had been reading Nouwen and Swindoll on the subject. But beyond a sermon topic, I was consumed by the importance of silence and solitude. For at least a year, any time I had to give a devotion or a talk, that was usually my subject. If not addressed directly, I always seemed to find a way to tie it in.
I suppose that the subject of silence and solitude has too many “no-brainers” not to have similarities across messages, but MacDonald writes, “We are so accustomed to noise that we grow restless with out it. Worshipers in a congregation find it difficult to sit in quietness for more than a minute or two; we assume that something has gone wrong…”
That sounds like it came straight from my own message! There were a few other instances I read in his book that sounded like what I thought were my own keen insights. Nevertheless, I do take solace in the fact that In 2000 I was reaching the same conclusions MacDonald did so many years before.
I am truly grateful to have been introduced to this book. It comes to my life at a time when I have let some weeds enter the garden, so to speak. It also helps remind me that while I used to live a very intentional and disciplined life, I cannot ride the wave of “used to” and if I desire fruit now, I must continue to be diligent in these pursuits.