Like most Westernized Christians, the word meditation sounded very foreign to me. I conjured up images of mountaintop temples with coy ponds, and bald men sitting cross-legged on the floor meditating. I’m sure some version of that may be true, but that vision of the word, meditation, has distorted what it means in its’ most true form; continued thought - reflection and contemplation.
In a world full of notifications and distractions, continued reflection is a lost skill. When we can get anything we want instantaneously, there is no value in waiting. We choose tweets over deep dives, flings over commitment, and passionate love over companionate love. When we slow down to breathe and examine our lives it feels uncomfortable. So, we revert back to the safety of distraction, but the skill of reflection and contemplation, that probably once came naturally to us, now feels foreign. Not only is this psychologically and emotionally unhealthy, but its harmful in our relationship to God and to Jesus.
Part of being a Christian is participating in both the relationship and community that is brought through the Church and small groups. That comes pretty naturally to most of us. Life is hard and its a natural and instinctive want and need to share these hardships with others. We are wired to journey through life together and that expresses itself in our want for friends, love, and a desire for acceptance, but we are also designed to spend time alone with God. There are crevices and holes in our heart that can’t be filled with anything except the love of God. We even use the term “relationship with God,” to describe this desire.
It would make sense that a belief in an all-knowing and loving God would dictate a desire to know him intimately; to have such a person guide us and advise us. But a relationship typically involves not just lists of wants, requests, and an occasional thank you, it involves daily interactions of friendship and conversation. It’s time where we both listen and speak to God, exchanging and learning from one another. This type of exchange, in combination with the Bible, eventually develops into trust and love. You may ask yourself “How can mediation improve my relationship with God?” or maybe even “Is meditation even Christian?” I emphatically say yes, and not only that, spending purposeful, quiet time reflecting and listening to God will enormously improve your relationship with him. Below I will discuss both why meditation is Christian and how it has improved my faith and will hopefully do the same for you.
1. Everyone from Jesus to David practiced meditation and prayer as part of their daily routine with God.
Did you know that the word “meditate” or “meditation” is mentioned 20 times throughout the Bible? Everyone in the Bible considered intimate time in prayer to be crucial to their relationship with God. Granted this may have come more easily to people before the invention of tv and the internet, but just because it may be harder now doesn’t make it any less true. In fact, it makes the point even more important. Not only do we need Jesus in our lives now more than ever, it is becoming increasingly difficult to disconnect from the world and find a place where we can learn and listen to his guidance and love. If we want to cultivate a relationship with God like those in the Bible we have to mirror their daily spiritual habits.
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed”
Mark 1:35 NKJV
2. Solitude allows you to fully express yourself.
Even in the context of a Church or a small group, it can be hard to be ourselves. Everyone has some secret about themselves, some temptation or vice that they just can’t shake. We live our lives with constant feedback. We put filters on our photos and share videos of the highpoint in our life, but everyone is familiar with the sadness of coming home to an empty house, or the feeling of hiding something that you are too afraid to share. That’s natural. We are broken people living in a broken world. But when we come to God in solitude, we can share all the things that we have hidden deep. There is nothing we can do that can’t be forgiven. His love for you is endless and intimate. You just have to expose your heart to him and allow him to heal those wounds.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30 NIV
3. You learn to read the Bible with your heart, instead of your brain.
Let me first express that there is nothing wrong with studying the Bible intellectually. I do it myself. I encourage it, but there is so much more. There are infinite things we can learn from the Bible, but at it’s core, it is a love letter; from the creator to his creation! How neat is that? It’s a divinely inspired book about WHY God does what he does and not just what or when. In Hebrews it is written that the mark of the new covenant will be laws written in their hearts and minds. Not only is this covenant fulfilled in Jesus, it means that the Bible is supposed to be read through eyes of love. When we spend the time to reflect and sit with the words of the Bible, without the preconceived expectation of learning, the words affect us differently. When we openly listen and feel what the Bible is saying the words speak to us differently than if we were to read them in a study format.
"This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, says the LORD: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”>
Hebrews 10:16 NLT
5. Our breath is a reflection of our life.
The Hebrew language shares a word for both breathe and for spirit/essence; and that word is “ruach". As God breathed into Adam, he was giving him both physical life and his essence as a man made in God’s image with a divine spark. Our breath is a reflection of our life. When we get nervous our breathing may quicken, or when we are sick, our breathing may worsen. It may seem trivial to pair breathing exercises with reading the Bible or praying, but to me, the breath acts as a physical reminder of my relationship with God. It acts as an anchor to help make this practice a habit, as well as serving as a daily reminder of the gift of life given to me by an ever-present, loving creator. The act of controlling my breathing and noticing my body allows me to leave the pain and struggles of daily life at the door, and open my heart and hands to God, allowing myself to rest in his presence. Each moment, good or bad, is a blessing from God and an opportunity to draw closer to him. Our breath is a reflection of that.
"Then the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man's nostrils, and the man became a living person.”
Genesis 2:7 NLT