Friday, September 11, 2009
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My husband and I sometimes go around and around in circles in our house. We have a floor pattern that lends itself to this. He will be in one room when I seek to talk to him. I’ll go to the room where I think he is but he’s already moving on our circular path to another room. After a lap and a half, one of usually says, “Just stand still. I’ll find you.” That’s when we catch up to each other and talk about the intricacies of our days.
This week in our series on the spiritual disciplines we’ll consider Christian meditation. Meditation is reflection on God’s work and words. I believe meditation of this sort is both intentional and unintentional. Sometimes we set a time to read, meditate and study God’s word and work. At other times, to my surprise, a scripture or thought about God will replay in my mind much like a tune gets stuck there and “plays” repeatedly.
In my Bible reading this summer, I read through the Psalms and for most of the time, I stayed on a self-prescribed agenda. I moved forward at a leisurely pace, one that allowed me to “digest” the scriptures and absorb them. But one entire week, I only read a few verses. Each time I opened to the Psalms and started reading where I left off, I sensed that I was not getting the meaning of the verses.
I read about those few verses in commentaries, prayed to know the meaning, looked up what other writers had documented about them online. Finally, after about eight days of mulling and thinking about the essence of the thirty or so words, I moved on, satisfied that I had wrung out all I could for the moment. We can stay in the shallow end of the pool of God’s word or we can meditate and God will build up spiritual muscles and put meat on skinny souls.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” the Lord proclaimed to Israel, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
I’m certainly not an expert on Eastern meditation but I know that it calls for the emptying of the mind. Christian meditation calls for the mind to be filled. That’s put too simply to be of much help, but God’s words call us to a better place, from selfish ways of doing things to looking out for the needs of others.
Meditation is similar to a cow chewing her cud—you know that digestive process, right? Contemplation is chewing on holy words to get all the benefits that come from re-digesting scripture. The Lord God explained to Joshua the profit of having the words of God swirl around in our minds rather than meaningless thoughts: “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success (Joshua 1:8).
Meditation on God, his work and words can lead to recognizing and yielding to his gift of peace. Richard Foster says the church Fathers often spoke of “Otium Sanctum,” holy leisure. Those words refer to balance in life, an ability to be at peace through the activities of the day, the ability to rest, the ability to pace ourselves.
Meditation best takes place in a quiet atmosphere—that alone should help with the balance of life. This week, choose one scripture to meditate on, chew on it and think about it in arranged quiet times. Most likely, the scripture will even pop into your mind during activities, too. That’s great. Your heart is calling up God’s word to nourish you.
Want to draw closer to God’s intent for your life? Then meditate and follow him around this week. Like my husband and I trail each other trying to catch up to have a more intimate talk, God is looking for us, too. Fix your thoughts on him this week, and you might just hear God whisper.
“Just stand still. I’ll find you.”