Saturday, June 11, 2005

The Heebie-Jeebies Meet Bonhoeffer (CoD Ch 2)

Have you ever noticed how a single word can evoke emotions to the positive and negative all at the same time? Depending on the definition to which we hold for the word, a term can spark feelings that encourage and inspire us or frustrate and repel us. For me, the concept of meditation is such a word.

I know scripture encourages it.

Psalm 1 - Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

Joshua 1- This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

Likewise, at least to some degree, we all do it. David even prayed in Psalm 19May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. “ And, I know it is a word I should embrace and a practice I should and do cherish. So why do I get the heebie-jeebies when I hear the word meditate.

I don’t know about you but I guess I’ve seen too many stereotypical images that push me away from the idea of calling the time I spend with God meditation. You may know the images I mean. An ascetic religious sage – supposedly a person with special knowledge - in a robe and sandals, sitting with crossed legs and up tilted palms, chanting some unfamiliar mantra, emptying his mind and trying to become one with the universe. Maybe I don’t understand and I certainly do not want to offend anyone by a bias rooted in a western experience and too much television, yet it seems that God, as He has revealed Himself to man, has not called mankind be one with the cosmos but rather reconciled and at peace with Him. So, to this end, I am grateful for this week’s chapter in Celebration of Discipline.

In a way, Richard Foster redeems the word meditation from the mire of too many popular misconceptions of the term. He defines it in a biblical context and frames it in a way that makes sense in the Christian life. He boils it down to simply “the ability to hear God’s voice and obey His word”. And, he adds, “Repentance and obedience are essential features in any biblical understanding of meditation”. This makes sense and it rings true with the internal witness of God in me, His child.

You see, I like knowing it’s OK to meditate. I like having a definition that reconciles the idea with the internal witness of God the Spirit and His word. It rings true when Mr. Foster relays that Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor martyred near the end of WWII, when asked why he meditated, replied,"Because I am a Christian.” I like knowing that meditating is uncomplicated and as natural for a Christ follower as breathing. I like knowing that “listening to God’s word, reflecting on His works, rehearsing His deeds, ruminating on His law, and more” are all acts of meditation. I like knowing that it is a habit and practice that is not reserved for a special few with “special” knowledge; rather, it is for those with no special abilities who are simply willing to listen. It is this uncomplicated - maybe even unimpressive -man or woman to whom God speaks. I like this reality and I rejoice that it is true.

There are many other points in Foster’s writing on meditation that merit development, discussion and application to my life; yet, for me, I am most grateful that Mr. Foster has unknotted a term that is central to Christian living and done away with this man’s case of the heebie-jeebies. For this, I am most appreciative and I look forward to enjoying the thoughts and observations of the group as I read your posts. Thanks for the continuing conversation.


Anonymous Bob said...

Love the title, but I am still dancing! ;-) I think you make the point wonderfully about the fright the word meditation gives Christians, especially in the Western World. I love the story of your journey to acceptance and embrace of meditation. I know that I have a long way to go in this Discipline.

Blogger Paula said...

someone posted a comment on my blog that amounted to the same 'heebie jeebie' experience but she doesn't use that language. being a wordsmith, i try to be careful how i use words. but this one does seem to evoke in some of us pictures of mindbending that seem literally impossible and for Christians, unappealing and dangerous.


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