Meditation is about being still in order to seek the face of God. I’ve noticed that whenever I take the time in the morning to quietly, humbly, and unhurriedly center on Him, the day ahead becomes alive with color. I’m not spared from difficulties, but instead am armed with the grace to meet them. I take on on a calm, slower, more measured pace. It always seems that I don’t have the time for such an impractical thing as being still, and yet it turns out that it’s the most practical thing in the world.
Being still is a counter-intuitive act of faith; it says “I have so very much to do, and yet, I choose You above it all. All of it can wait: the dishes, the people, the to-do list… I need you, Lord, before all these things, and alongside me as I do them. Without You they are empty and burdensome, but with You they are a joy.”
When I start my day with some sort of confession like that, two things usually happen: First, it seems like the day stretches out to be longer, like a few more hours have been added, and everything that needs to be done fits in perfectly, with time to spare. Second, all the cares that were weighing me down at first are put in their place. I name them to God and He gives me some practical instruction about them. Deadlines coming up, offenses taken, worries regarding the hardships of a loved one, anxieties over past mistakes, glaring character flaws that I see in myself: my desire to be impressive, to be in control, to get my way… I hand them all over to God, and a transformation happens as a result. I begin to “walk in the Spirit,” no longer at the mercy of my emotions, moods, and circumstances. One way to practice this act of “handing over” is a method of meditation which Richard Foster calls “palms up, palms down”:
“Begin by placing your palms down as a symbolic indication of your desire to turn over any concerns you may have to God. Inwardly you may pray ‘Lord, I give you my anger toward Joe. I release my fear of my dentist appointment this morning. I surrender my anxiety over not having enough money to pay the bills this month. I release my frustration over trying to find a babysitter for tonight.’ Whatever it is that weighs on your mind or is a concern to you, release it. …After several moments of surrender, turn your palms up as a symbol of your desire to receive from the Lord. Perhaps you will pray silently, ‘Lord, I would like to receive your divine love for Joe, Your peace about the dentist appointment, Your patience, Your joy.”
Often, as I’m releasing a care to God, He will bring a verse to mind. When I’m overly concerned about my looks, 1 Peter 3:3-4 saves me: “Do not let your adornment be merely outward–arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel– rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” I’ll be battling bitterness toward someone I feel has mistreated me, and Ephesians 4:32 will set me straight: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” My mind is abuzz with all sorts of negativity and worry, and I’ll realign myself with Philippians 4:6-7: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Paul’s letter to the Philippians goes on to say,
“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”
Be still, and dwell on these things. In so doing, we uproot the ugly weeds that have sprung up in our hearts, and cultivate a lovely, peace-filled garden in their place.