Modern life is busy — crazy busy beyond anything that previous generations have experienced. Working life is a constant juggling act of emails, meetings, targets, deadlines, and maximal profit margins. Even our education service is imbued with the view that it's all about wealth creation, as though our children are just so many potential economic units destined to live in servitude to the Gross Domestic Product.
What is the effect? Well, in our children, it's a bow wave of mental ill health that threatens to become a tsunami. And what example do we set our children as e-availability becomes a 24/7 demand? What time do we take to reflect on our lives? What spaces do we create to restore our souls?
During a radio broadcast a few months ago, I mentioned W. H. Davies' poem "Leisure," written over a hundred years ago but more relevant now than ever. And that set me thinking about meditation and the value of stillness.
Christian meditation is quite different from any other form of meditation because it involves focusing your mind on God rather than emptying it or thinking of yourself. It has three components. First, it's about reading scripture and grounding our thoughts in the Bible. Then it's about responding to the love of God, before finally worshipping God as an outcome of our meditation. As I was reading Davies' poem, each couplet brought to mind a verse from the Bible. Ponder on them with me, not to improve your wellbeing (although it may), or to improve your work output (although that may be an outcome, too) but just because God is.
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?
"Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10). This is an imperative — we are told to be still. We are finite beings, but God is infinite. Stop, relax, empty your mind of where you are and what you're doing (the finite) and focus on God (the infinite). You can do this any time, any place, for a moment or for a while. Just let go and let God.
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:
"Ask the animals and they will teach you ... in his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind" (Job 12:7,10). Job said this in the midst of terrible suffering. He told his comforters to let the birds tell them what was going on; to let the fish of the ocean tell their stories. He knew that God is sovereign. So stop, look, listen, and focus on the sovereignty of God to which all of creation witnesses.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:
"All things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (Colossians 1:16-17). Look at the created world to see the God who cannot be seen. God started it, God holds it all together every moment, and in God we find our purpose.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:
"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands" (Psalm 19:1). God worked — he created the world. He still works — he holds the world together. His work declares his glory. All of creation points us to God. Make time to see God in some aspect of creation and allow it to proclaim God's glory to you.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:
"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has ... set eternity in the hearts of men" (Ecclesiastes 3:11). God has planted eternity in our hearts and minds, a sense of purpose working through the ages that can only be fulfilled by God. Focus on God's purpose for you in your work, your relationships, and your leisure. Allow the beauty of God to shine through you to others.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?
"Worship the LORD in the splendour of his holiness" (1 Chronicles 16:29). God is holy. He calls us to be holy. Allow the holiness of God to fill your mind and worship him for the beauty and splendour that you see in God. Then, as The Message Bible says: "Stand resplendent in his robes of holiness."
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
"Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted" (Psalm 46:10).
Four years ago I gave up my busy job as a Deputy Head (Vice Principal) to write. That allows me time to enjoy one of the great loves of my life: gardening. The rhythm of my life changed completely — seeds germinate and plants grow, live, and die in their own time. It's a good way to enjoy slow living and to witness the miracle of creation every day. But whether you have this privilege or whether you live a busy life, take time to allow God to flood you with his love and to restore your soul. In the rush of your everyday life, practice stillness in the presence of the Lord and allow your heart and mind to be filled with the knowledge that he is God.