Phileena Heuertz: The Importance of Silence, Solitude, and Stillness


By Claire Spychalla, Class of 2015

Phileena Heuertz came to speak in chapel and then had a talk-back session with some of us in the Honors Lodge. In her time in chapel, she spoke mainly on the practices of silence, solitude, and stillness. During her talk-back time, she elaborated on why these three things are important. The main thing that they do for us is that they remove some of the big idols that we tend to have and help us to rely solely on God. The three main idols that she talked about were achievement, security, and relationships. These are all good things, but we cannot define ourselves by them. If we tend to find our value in achievement, for instance, then by intentionally setting aside time for stillness we are able to focus on being in God’s presence and enjoying Him, rather than trying to do things for Him. Similarly, if we make relationships an idol, then by practicing solitude we find ourselves alone with God and learn to find our identity in Him apart from other people. Finally, if we struggle with issues of security, then by being silent before God we can silence the voices of our culture, other people, Satan, etc. and listen only to the voice of God, who tells us who we are. Phileena concludes that there really is no better way to overcome our idolatry than by practicing solitude, silence, and stillness in our lives.

Phileena has practiced these three things in her life for many years, and as a result, her relationship to God and her beliefs about what a full and obedient life looks like have changed. In particular, she talked about how, as she spent time with God, she had what she calls a “feminine awakening.” She realized that she had been living her life based on some assumptions about gender roles that were restricting, and as she thought more deeply about what it means to be a woman versus a man, her role in her marriage and in her work began to change. She believes that women’s gifts and talents have been overlooked by a patriarchal church, and she thinks that women ought to have just as much freedom to do what God has gifted them to do as men have. As a woman who has been raised in a church that emphasized differences in gender roles, I’m not sure if I agree with her or not. It is something I have been thinking about a lot, and it is helpful for me to hear her talk about her spiritual journey to get to the place where she is at. Mainly, she wanted to emphasize to us that if we are serious about seeking God, He will lead us into truth, even though that truth may go against what the world tells us. I have been encouraged by listening to her, and I think as a result of hearing her speak, I now have a broader perspective of prayer that will be helpful to me as I grow in my relationship with God.