Death by Suburb, David Goetz

I am reading a provocative and – so far – impressionable book.  Death by Suburb: How to keep the suburbs from killing your soul, by David Goetz.

It has more than a modicum of crossroads in my life.

In his second chapter, Goetz addresses the suburban “environmental toxin” (to my soul, that is) of CONTROL… the thought that I am in control of my life.  He proposes the simple spiritual practice of SILENCE/SOLITUDE as the challenger to self-sovereignty.  This is something I struggle with.  Constant activity which churns in tandem with my delusion of constant control.  According to Goetz, it is frivolous to fight our control-addiction by trying to control it! Try solitude.  Try nothing.  Stop.

You can’t live the deeper life and the busy life.  You get one but not the other. p.25

The deeper spiritual life is never a direct route.  If it were, religion in the suburbs would be the fast track to the Godhead.  In the toxic dump of efficiency and control, the first act must be countercultural – a decision not to act.  p.26

While outdoor solitude is a premium, it is not necessary for learning to uncover eternity in the ordinary… For spiritual development and entrance into the thicker, more reflective life, solitude is more inside space than outside space.  p.31

The life practice of solitude, then, is the opposite of my expectations of escape and rest or an immediate ushering into what I think is God’s presence.  It is more a discipline of struggle than it is of serenity.  It’s no formula for controlling my outer world or how I feel.  It’s the ongoing guerrilla war to loosen my choke hold on creating and gathering to myself the life I think I need.  I don’t pursue giving up control; I pursue the practice of solitude.  p.33

Goetz quotes Henri Nouwen:

It’s not easy to sit and trust that in solitude God will speak to you – not as a magical voice but that he will let you know something gradually over the years.

To which I echo Goetz: “It’s the ‘over the years’ part that bothers me.

Believe it or not, before I posted this blog, I worked to sit in silence for 5 minutes.  5 minutes.  To stop controlling my schedule.  My to-do list.  My day.  My time.  I tried.  God’s 5 minutes.  His voice.  His Word (if he prompted me to turn to it.)  And its not that I don’t read, or study or pray as a regular spiritual discipline.  I have hours of concentrated ‘devotion’ each week.  It’s just that even in doing said things… I am rarely stopping.  Rarely still.  Rarely under the control of quiet.  There is a difference, I am finding.

I’m not much good at this solitude thing.  I guess I have control issues.

Lord, help me to know you here.  In the suburbs… at a different pace that sees you, and changes me.  You the sovereign king of the suburbs.   You put me here.  You are here.  Help me sit and see and savor and so move into this place knowing you… under your control.

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2 thoughts on “Death by Suburb, David Goetz

  1. Ryan says:

    very true. interesting book I read (though probably not quite as deep) was a book called “justice in the ‘burbs”. Interesting discussion on where we see “needs” and what to do about them. Praying for you and WVP.

  2. Good word and good reminder, Jim. Solitude is not something expected of us in our culture, and therefore we are no longer any good at it, nor do we value it. We would do well to expect it (not merely encourage it) of one another. I wonder if the original intent of sabbatical was something like this…

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