The Discipline of Meditation
I posted this quote from Celebration of Discipline on my Facebook wall and Twitter feed as I read through the chapter. I feel that Foster has hit upon a very deep truth that, though prevalent when he wrote the book, has only gotten worse with time. We live in a world that is rushed, forcing individuals from one task to the next, always trying to accomplish one goal after another. Our society has become such a fast-paced whirlwind that it is no surprise to me that we find ourselves just like the Israelites, always wanting someone to go to God for us. We want people to cook our food, clean up our messes and even at one point wanted them to pump our gas. It’s no wonder that we expect someone else to do the hard work of communicating with God for us. It leaves us with a faith no deeper than a thimble, and Foster uses this chapter to describe how much deeper, richer and fuller the Spiritual Discipline of Meditation can make our walk with God. He quotes Carl Jung as saying that “hurry is not of the devil; it is the devil.”
Fifty-eight times the Hebrew words which convey the idea of meditation appear in the Scriptures. Jeremiah, Eli and Isaac all saw the value in meditating. Jesus Himself often withdrew to solitary places to meditate. But we often see meditation as the eastern mystics see it – an opportunity to disengage from everything and unify one’s self with the universe. Real meditation is not detachment, but digging deep into communication with the God of everything! It is the complete opposite, it is not emptying our minds, but filling them with God. And it is not just a health benefit we are seeking (there are some), but a life marked with change and growth as a result of our meditations. One thing that struck me (and did so enough in my first reading of this chapter that I jotted a note in the margin) was Foster’s assertion that the Revelation 3.20 passage (“I stand at the door and knock…”) was originally written to believers, not to unbelievers waiting to let Christ into their hearts. Jesus is seeking a deeper communion with those who already know Him! You can disagree with Foster’s interpretation if you like, but the context does seem to support his assertions. (Check it out if you don’t believe me). It certainly changes the way we perceive how our relationship with Christ works, doesn’t it? So often today we teach that a relationship with Christ is something to be had and to allow to stay still. Sure, we teach that we need to spend time in the word and grow deeper in our walk, but how often do we teach on how to deepen that walk, how to invite Christ in for a meal? How can we truly commune with Him and not just go through the motions of reading and prayer.
Meditation begins with earnest prayer, asking God to give us the desire to meditate. If we do not do this, we will fail because we will be moving forward under only human power. Foster acknowledges that one cannot learn how to meditate from reading a book, that we must simply do it and learn along the way. I agree. But he does give some great ideas to start with. I especially enjoy his ideas of spending much time on a few words, and of “palms down, palms up” prayer. I noted on my last read-through of this chapter that I needed to pray in this fashion more, and I have not done so. A couple other important things that Foster notes are that we need to ease into the practice. And even when we are deep into the discipline, it is okay if we do not hear guidance every time. He also acknowledges that the human imagination is flawed and potentially dangerous in our meditation. But God created the human imagination and can sanctify it and help us in utilizing it properly (I have an overactive imagination and this is a major concern of mine).
Foster also points out a severe need to block out specific, regular times and places for our meditation. We need to find postures that are beneficial and not distracting to our efforts. But most importantly (in this aspect) is that we need to carve out time with great ruthlessness. I need to make a serious effort at this over the next couple of weeks as I begin to incorporate this Discipline into my life. Hopefully I will have some interesting stories to share with you about my experiences. I leave you with one more quote (there are so many great ones in this chapter alone. I almost have more text underlined than I have untouched).
“So be patient with yourself. Besides, you are learning a discipline for which you have received no training. Nor does our culture encourage you to develop these skills. You will be going against the tide, but take heart; your task is of immense worth”