Turn to the Bible for inspiration in your meditation.
The concept of lectio divina is an ancient practice of taking a piece of Scripture — a parable, a verse, part of a verse, maybe just a single word — and meditating on it. There are formulaic steps for lectio divina, including reading the passage, praying over it (talking to God), meditating on it, going into contemplation (which can be an even deeper place to go), and finally ending with some sort of action inspired by the passage.
I like lectio divina because it’s an enriching way to look at Scripture and a great way to focus my mind in contemplative silence. Would that I could be like the holy souls who make their way through the Bible verse by verse, reading and praying through it from beginning to end. Would that I could live that long and well. I find that turning to just one verse works as a diving board for meditation, a jumping-off point. Partly because many of the things Jesus said only make sense to me in the context of meditation, when I let them seep into my heart and mind.
Take a familiar passage,
Those who find their lives will lose them, and those who lose their lives because of Me will find them. — CEB
or, to use another translation,
Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for My sake will find it. — Matthew 10:39 NIV
We end up stressing that “for My sake” to make it all right. We’re just supposed to be less self-involved, less selfish, more interested in others for Jesus’ sake, and then we’re safe.
I don’t think that gets us off the hook. Look at the way Luke’s gospel prefaces it with,
If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. — Luke 9:23 ASV
How do we deny ourselves? Our survival seems predicated on doing just the opposite. If we don’t advocate for ourselves, we’ll never get that job, that promotion, that raise. If we don’t look out for number one, everybody is sure to walk all over us.
More mundanely, if we don’t make that shopping list and head off to the supermarket, there won’t be anything in the refrigerator for dinner. We’ll starve. Sure, we look out for our families and loved ones. But that’s not denying ourselves at all; that’s taking care of the network that takes care of us. What would happen, though, if you used that verse as a motto for contemplative prayer? You close your eyes — whether you’re propped up in bed or sitting on a rumbling subway — and intentionally lose yourself. You lose all the stuff you tend to cling to. The shopping lists, the to-do lists, the emails, the text messages that make themselves known. The bank balance and the worry over whether there’s enough to cover the bill you need to pay or have already paid. Again and again, you let that stuff go. You don’t do it just once. You do it ten times, then a hundred, then a thousand, and then so many that you’ve lost track because it’s become routine.
Take another verse that most of us would rather skip over or mumble if we have to read it aloud:
If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. — Luke 14:26
Okay, leave your mom and dad and family behind to make a life for yourself, but hate them? Your wife and your children too? So much for pretty ideals of what makes the perfect Christian family. I like to imagine this as a slogan for some Saturday Night Live sketch on Christian parenting. Family members staring daggers at each other; “Hey, we’re just doing what the Good Book says, everybody hating everybody else."
Now go back to that verse. Hold it in your head in silence for a long while. Argue with it: What in the world was Jesus thinking? Maybe he wanted to make sure the disciples left their families behind when they set out to follow Him because it would be a tough road ahead. Make no bones about it: sacrifices would be called for. Discipleship had huge costs. (I always find it curious to read in the Gospels how Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law, but we never learn what happened to Peter’s wife. Who was she? Was she alive at the time? Did Peter abandon her? Was the healing of the mother-in-law some sort of consolation for Peter’s departure?) Maybe we’re supposed to keep the command in its historical context. Jesus doesn’t want us to hate our mothers and fathers and spouses and children. Nothing like it. He was simply talking to a bunch of followers two millennia ago, not us.
I don’t buy that. Jesus was given to making His listeners uncomfortable. He still is. Why? Because what makes us uncomfortable has the power to change us. Take that into meditation.
An uncomfortable silence isn’t all bad.
Excerpted with permission from Even Silence Is Praise by Rick Hamlin, copyright Rick Hamlin.
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Isn’t it interesting that Jesus doesn’t mind our discomfort with His words or actions? He wants us to contemplate Him, follow Him, trust Him, and continue even when we’re confused because we know that we know that we know that He is good! Meditating on His Word is a way to worship Him. Ruminating on what He means, what He’s saying, using lectio devina, spending time in His presence, all bring us closer to Him! Come share your thoughts with us. We want to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full