When I googled the word “contemplation,” this is what came up: “the action of looking thoughtfully at something for a long time.” Synonyms of the word include “examination,” “inspection,” “observation,” and “scrutiny.” In a world where it seems everything swirls around the internet and social media, it’s easy to forget to make time do such things. In fact, because of the fast pace I set for my life, the closest I get to contemplation during my everyday schedule is the obsessive way I worry and fret about little aspects of my life. Although I know that it is only natural for my brain to turn toward itself and isn’t inherently selfish, there are so many subjects other than myself that would be much more productive for me to spend time thinking about.
My Search Begins
As I clearly don’t have much knowledge or experience in contemplation, the first place I turned to in order to learn more about how others approach contemplation was the back of The Everyday Matters Bible for Women. I flipped to the very convenient section in the back which lists all the themes and the corresponding articles by many well-known pastors, authors, musicians, and more, found Contemplation, and started reading the various articles that dove into this idea.
The common theme that strung all the articles together was the authors’ commitment to entering into God’s presence and devoting time to muse on Him. Whether it was through quiet time (Ginger Kolbaba sits with her palms and face pointed upwards toward the heavens), through journaling (Luci Shaw explains that journaling helps her keep track of her journey toward Christ), and through prayerful listening (Carmen Acevedo Butcher explains that as long as we have a genuine longing for God, he will commune with us), contemplation is something fluid, something that will look different to every person.
How do we contemplate ideas or thoughts other than the ones about our lives that seem to naturally follow us around?
When I think of how I want to approach contemplation, I think of the many nights I spent laying out on the beach with close friends. In high school we would stay out late into the night, staring up at the universe and waiting for a “shooting star” while whispering about our fears and hopes for the future, how we wanted our lives to change, or what we thought was good and beautiful. We asked each other questions like, “What’s the nicest thing someone has ever said to you and why?”, “What was the hardest thing you’ve had to do?”, or “What do you hope people remember about you?” While these questions focused on me and my life, they also forced me to take a step back and see how I relate to other people.
I think this is the key to contemplation: the departure from our self-orbiting minds to think about God, the eternal, how we fit into his plan, and how we can act upon those conclusions. In stepping back and acknowledging the larger flow of life around us, we are contemplating the things that truly matter.
How to Realistically Grasp Contemplation
Now, writing that down felt extremely far-reaching, mind-bending, and probably headache-inspiring. However the process of contemplation isn’t meant to be solely for those who can bear the burden of such heavy questions. What matters is the time and concentration put into spending time thinking about the things that really matter in the grand scheme of creation and our heavenly future. Contemplation isn’t meant to be a limiting process, it’s meant to open our minds to more possibilities than we could have seen before.
So next time you have a spare few moments, let yourself fall into silence, open your mind, and let God’s words fill your mind. Empty your hearts of everything self-focused, and try to focus on thinking about things that need to be brought up between you and God, not the silly little daily fears that clutter our minds. If you find a specific thought drifting up to the surface, perhaps that’s meant to serve as a hint that you should actually contemplate that. I think we’ll find that the more often we enter into intentional time with the Lord, the easier and more fruitful contemplation will become.