If you put into practice the first two disciplines we've talked about, Solitude and Silence, is there anything you should DO during that quiet time alone?
Many Christians speak of having "quiet time." Often, they think of their "quiet time" as the time during which they do their Bible study or practice intercessory prayer. Both of those are very good things to do, but "furiously busy time" might be a better description of those sessions than "quiet time."
In this furiously busy, at times frantic world, meditation is just what our hearts need.
What is meditation? Simply put, meditation is contemplation or reflection. It is continued thought on one matter. Some Eastern religions are famous for their meditative practices, and rightly so. These folks have learned the value of quieting their minds and calming themselves. But Christian meditation does not stop with the idea of detachment from the world. Instead, Christian meditation is a tool for detaching from the confusion and noise of the world in order to attach fully and richly to God. Richard J. Foster writes, "Christian meditation leads us to the inner wholeness necessary to give ourselves to God freely" (Celebration of Discipline, p. 21).
Christian meditation is the practice of stepping away from the noisiness of our sometimes frantic world, calming our minds, and developing "the ability to hear God's voice and obey his word" (Foster, Celebration of Discipline, p. 17).
So how can we do that? Again, putting things very simply, we first choose to practice. Meditation may come quite naturally to some people. Those who have introverted personalities, for instance, or those with an artistic bent may find meditation a very easy discipline to practice. Those of us who are more extroverted or more action-oriented may find that we must force ourselves into a position of quiet calm. There's no magic way to meditate--you don't have to sit in a certain position, hold your hands any particular way, or have your eyes closed. You might meditate best sitting under a tree, gazing out at the beauty of creation. Or you might meditate best sitting in a chair with your hands in your lap.
Perhaps the most helpful thing I've found is to choose something upon which to meditate. For me, the very best thing is to meditate upon a passage of Scripture. Now, I don't mean to study a passage of scripture, although that's an excellent thing to do. I mean to allow a short passage to speak to you deeply. Remember, Scripture is the word of God, described as "living and active" (Hebrews 4:12). It's important to remember that God loves you passionately and completely, and allow his word to communicate that love to you. In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, ". . . just as you do not analyze the words of someone you love, but accept them as they are said to you, accept the Word of Scripture and ponder it in your heart, as Mary did. That is all. That is meditation" (The Way to Freedom, p. 59).
I'll give you a personal example of how meditation has helped me. For several years, my family has faced real struggles with health. My 14-year-old son had open-heart surgery in April 2008. Then in February 2009 my husband had open-heart surgery. And then in April 2011 my husband had to have a second open-heart surgery. Of course these surgeries took place right in the middle of our everyday, busy lives. At one point I was so stressed that I wished I could take a class in time management. There was so much to do, so many lists to be made and tasks to be carried out. How on earth was I ever going to get everything done?
Precisely at this time of frenetic activity, I was advised to spend time meditating on the psalms. At first I balked: how on earth was meditating on the psalms supposed to help me get through my to-do list? To be honest, I was frustrated at the very thought of it. But I submitted to the wisdom of my advisor, and I meditated on the third psalm. Let me tell you, friends: in the surgical waiting room, these words meant much more to me than any completed to-do list ever could have: "Thou, O Lord, are a shield about me; my glory, and the lifter of my head" (Psalm 3:3).
Again quoting Richard Foster: "What happens in meditation is that we create the emotional and spiritual space which allows Christ to construct an inner sanctuary in the heart." You see, Jesus is the master builder. We don't have to design or construct the sanctuary; he does that work for us. We only have to give him the space to work.
What about you? Is meditation something you've practiced? If so, how has it helped you?
This post is part of a 31-day series on spiritual formation. To see all posts in this series, click here. Or click here to see all the bloggers participating in the 31-day challenge!