We live in afast-paced, hurry-up world. Technology has blessed us with the ability to get more done in a shorter amount of time. When our pioneer ancestors received a communication,it might have taken weeks or months to arrive from the East. Now we can have instant communication with persons from another part of the globe. Since we don’t have to go down to the creek to bring in water for cooking, bathing,etc., we can just turn a faucet handle and instantly, there it is, all the water we need anywhere in the house. Scientific breakthroughs allow us to see each other virtually and even to have virtual doctor appointments. It’s Amazing. The things this generation takes for granted; previous generations would have found magical. Can you imagine what Caroline Ingalls (of Little House on the Prairie) would have thought of microwave ovens?
So many of these inventions are time-saving devices. So, what do we do with the time we have saved? Typically, we fill that time with more activity. Our Generation has become addicted to busyness and noise. Seventeenth-century French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal famously said, “All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” (Blaise Pascal, Pensées) Have you tried that lately? Sitting? Alone? Quietly? Ihave. I am not particularly good at doing that. I marvel at the thought of Pascal Observing us playing fast-paced video games or binging on TV. Perhaps he would shake his head in dismay, wondering why we haven’t learned the simple art of contemplation.
What is contemplation? “Contemplation is simply thinking about something with the desire to understand or engage.” (Dictionary.com)Another source tells us that contemplationis thoughtful observation. Still another option adds to or understanding: “full or deep consideration; reflection.” Franciscan priest and author Richard Rohr define contemplation this way:
Contemplation is simply being fully present—in heart, mind,and body—to what's in a way that allows you to creatively respond and work toward what could be.
I would say that contemplation is a lost art.It is the ability to think seriously about matters that matter. To think about something repeatedly in order to understand it…to grasp something so that it grasps you. It is meditation. For some, meditation involves emptying your mind and letting it be filled by “whatever.” That’s dangerous. Instead, we should fill our minds with God’s thoughts.
In our busy world, we don’t have time like the sages of old to sit in a monastery and ponder the depths of God. I suggest that we attack modern Christian contemplation two ways.
First, make it a habit of thinking about lifet hrough the eyes of Jesus. Family problems, work, scheduling. We have to think about those things. That’s what our lives so often consist of. If you are likeme, you try to see what resources you can bring to bear to solve a problem.That’s always better than trying to find someone to blame or considering yourself a victim. But how about going the next step? Think about how God wants to use this moment in your life to bring glory to Him. Think about any solutionHe might have. Maybe He wants you to wait for Him to provide. Maybe an interruption is really a divine appointment to act on.
Train your mind to think and act like this:
Finally,brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Phil 4:8-9 NIV
Second, practice intentional contemplation. TheBible is replete with commands and examples of contemplation or meditation. Oneplace to start is to repeat verses of Scripture you already know, e.g. John 3:16, John 14:6, or Ephesians 2:8-9. Another option is to find verses ofScripture that address a problem you are facing or a need you have. Do you have a problem with anger? Memorize Ephesian 4:31-32, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
Let the words of a hymn or song speak to you as you go through the day. One of my favorite hymns is When I Survey the Wondrous Cross. The first verse says this:
When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
The cross is a subject worthy of intentional contemplation.So is the Resurrection. And how about the second coming of Christ?
Maybe this could be your prayer as you begin or end your day:
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
OLord, my rock and my Redeemer.Ps 19:14
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 iswritten in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Josh 1:8
All Scripture references are from the New American Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.