I couldn’t decide between think and meditate as the header for this letter. But then I thought that muse kind of landed between them both, because as you know, to muse is to think, and to meditate is to think, and to think about things is to meditate, and so on.
When I was a new Christian I began to think about what my mind was up to. I know you’re very familiar with my command to you to think about what you think about. And so I wanted to expand on that a little bit and give you some pointers on how to meditate, or to muse intentionally.
First, realize that you’re never not thinking about something and that it is possible to arrest your meandering mind and give it direction for periods of time. In fact, I think the more you do that, the longer you can do it, and the more natural it is. But I don’t know that for sure. It seems to be the case with me. when you’re in control of your thoughts, and you’re thinking about what you’re intending to think about, then I would call that meditation. Meditation is intentional thinking. We can see an example of this in Psalm 119 wherein over and over David extols meditation on God’s law. Right away in verse 4, for example, he tells us, ”
When you’re in control of your thoughts, and you’re thinking about what you’re intending to think about, then I would call that meditation. Meditation is intentional thinking. We can see an example of this in Psalm 119 wherein over and over David extols meditation on God’s law. Right away in verse 4, for example, he tells us, “you have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.” At a glance, this might appear to mean that we should obey His precepts diligently. But I think it goes much deeper than that and involves meditation. We are to keep His precepts in our heart in the same way we would keep a treasure in a safe. And while we might lock a valuable thing away in order to protect it, keeping something in our heart is different. It is not locked away and protected until we need it. No, we keep something in our heart not by locking it away so much is by meditating on it. So by “keeping” his precepts we put them in our hearts, and then we bring them up often and we muse over them. We can see that 119 is not a Psalm about meandering thoughts. No, in this Psalm we see intentional thinking extolled.
Second, we meditate by memorizing scripture for a basis of meditation. One of my favorite analogies for meditation is the cow chewing its cud. The cow chews and swallows his food and later he regurgitates that same food and chews it again and again. To memorize scripture is to take food into our minds like food into our stomachs. Later, when we’re driving, or waiting in a line, or accomplishing a mundane task, we pull that scripture to the forefront of our thoughts, we recite it, and think about it means. Some of my best times of meditation are while ironing clothes. But remember, being able to recite a scripture to yourself is not meditating on it. No, to meditate involves inquiry, which brings me to my next point.
Third, to regurgitate scripture and chew on it involves asking yourself questions. If I asked you what scripture your father chews on perhaps more than any other, you probably would tell me “…for those who are according to the spirit set their minds on the things of the spirit, and those who are according to the flesh are according to the flesh“. So my meditating on this passage might look something like this:
Am I according to the flesh or according to the spirit? What about my decisions today? Were they according to the flesh or the spirit, and which ones were which? Did I say that thing I said earlier because I wanted to impress my friends concerning my knowledge of the Bible? I think perhaps I did. I wonder how much of what I do is based on pleasing and impressing man, and how much of it is based on pleasing God? I can see how I’m very much according to the flesh, even though from the outside I might appear spiritual. How important is it to me that I appear spiritual to others. What can I do to become more “according to the spirit”? Think differently? What were some of my thoughts then that lead up to my decision to impress? Could I have arrested them and not followed through? Is it possible to arrest such actions? Oh my LORD, please help me to be according to the spirit. Please show me how I am living in self-deception, and therefore am really living according to the flesh and thinking that I am according to the spirit.
Of course, this is a condensed version. And the more scripture you know the more your meditation can expand. For example in the meditation above, if I have it memorized, Romans 12:2 might come to mind:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, (and desire to impress others) but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
And all of this while ironing my shirts? Yes, and a lot of other things as well. There you are meditating on God’s Word, and “keeping it” in the midst of life. And keep in mind also that you’re not just limited to a specific word for word memorization, although I think that’s the best. Sometimes your meditations will lead you to other passages that you have a general memory of . And often you will get into the Word and find that passage so that you can see if your general understanding is what it actually says. I have many times looked up passages and discovered treasures that I’d not seen when I read it the first time. And many times this led to my desire to memorize those portions for further meditation.
And forth is the reward. Memorizing and meditating on scripture makes you hungry for more. There is no end to the questions that I have. And often is the case that I don’t have answers for those questions. And often there don’t seem to be any answers in the Bible either. But this is old news to me now because I’ve lived with unanswered questions before and have had some of them answered from scripture. I’ve spent years on some questions, like questions concerning God’s law, and does it still apply to us. Or, what is a Biblical understanding of the word love? I’m right now, as I write this, asking the question, what is faith? And I’m learning that I’m eaten up with faithlessness and also that faithlessness is a predominant problem in the Western Church. I’m amazed at how something so central to our “faith” can be so misunderstood, or passed over, or not even there.
So in conclusion, remember that it’s normal to have unanswered questions. Ignorance will be an ongoing fact of life for you and everyone you meet. The humble person realizes this, and so should you. No one has all the answers. But it’s also normal to get answers too. But, my main point here is that, in the end, meditation leads, not only to wisdom and understanding but also more hunger for God’s Word as questions are satisfied in your heart with Biblical answers, and that that very hunger is a reward all its own as we begin to imbibe the reality that scripture is trustworthy, and good for instruction, and is food for our souls.
As your father, I pray that your life would be a life of meditation on God’s word as you read, memorize, study and meditate on it. It is a trustworthy lamp unto our unsteady feet and you are living in dark times and will be traversing a rough path. Don’t stumble. Know his Word, and then build your life, including your thought life, on it, and it will keep you from many a snare.