Today the author suggests we look for God everywhere: in open sky and soaring bird; in barking dog and rusting fence. That perhaps it's okay if sometimes we don't start our search with Scripture and prayer. I believe this week's exercise directs me to stop, to wait on the Lord, to be still and see what happens. But I receive this with suspicion.
It's too easy.
At first blush, this sounds to me like an excuse for those who call themselves too busy, due to their pursuit of the American way. For the more I have buried myself in the Bible over the past four months, the more urgently I have sensed a need to pursue God--even to the point of excluding everyday life. If I were to just sit, with no agenda, how would that move me forward in my knowledge of God? Might I be wasting time?
My strong negative reaction startles me into realizing this is either a point on which I disagree, or a chance for me to listen to exactly what God does want to show me through the exercise of contemplation. After all, that is the goal of this experience.
I think, for me, putting God's word in my heart rises above all other priorities, because I believe it will change me and move me to the proper action.
Prayer, the presenting of my petitions before my advocate, follows closely behind.
But what about listening? Where does that fit in to the refining of my soul? What if I spend all my time reading the Bible and congratulating myself on my progress through the story? How about my sessions of throwing words at the throne, filling all the available space until I run out of time?
It's too easy to lose sight of the true goal.
When I spend all my time on me, do-ing, much of the transformative power of Scripture and prayer gets lost. Similar to not "setting" the hook when a fish nibbles at the bait. Or carefully preparing the soil of my garden, then neglecting to water it.
Which may or may not be something I do in real, physical, actual life, with my real-life backyard garden, after my husband builds me a greenhouse to protect the plants through the Texas winter. Shh.
Contemplation, then, must be as important a spiritual practice as reading God's word and prayer. Grudgingly I acknowledge this might complete a trinity of most-essential practices.
The Apostle James (who I may or may not avoid reading regularly due to the challenging nature of his words) addresses the importance of listening, and being changed by it:
If you just listen [to God's message] and don't obey, it is like looking at your face in a mirror but doing nothing to improve your appearance. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you keep looking steadily into God's perfect law--the law that sets you free--and if you do what it says and don't forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. James 1:23-25 NLT
More than anything, I want to be changed by looking steadily into God's law. I don't know about you, but I remember best by taking notes, then going back and considering.
After wrestling with this idea and realizing its importance, I eagerly reach for more time to be alone and contemplate. To allow my Maker to water the garden of my heart.
And I sense small shoots beginning to emerge from the formerly dry, cracked soil. And it feels good.