Whenever I think of going and contemplating I get very anxious and stressed. Part of the reason is that whenever I have a free moment to think and focus on my life, my thoughts are automatically drawn to all the things I have to do or that I’m afraid will happen. Another part of the reason I have a difficult time motivating myself to enter into solitude, though, is because of this pervading sense of guilt that follows me about my sins. I see so clearly how sinful I am, and I have extreme difficulty letting go of that sin and forgiving myself (you can read more about this in one of my other blog posts). Contemplation brings me right back to that, and usually leaves me feeling drained and unworthy even if I end up resolving a few things because of it.
Coincidentally, I’ve also been struggling to find a rhythm in my writing life. You see, as a writer of the genre creative nonfiction, I find it extremely emotionally taxing to write about some of the things I wish to write about—say, a painful moment of my life that taught me a lot. While it’s a lot easier to write about pleasant experiences, I find that it is my purpose to write about the hard ones in the hopes of encouraging those around me. This being said, the idea of taking the time to faithfully dedicate myself to my writing seems so emotionally exhausting in combination with my other stigmas about contemplation I mentioned before that I feel utterly paralyzed to the task.
As I was reading chapter 3 of Contemplation, however, I was struck with a new realization: that my time of contemplation can be when I write. And not only that: my time of contemplation doesn’t have to focus on the negative aspects of my life. The author of Contemplation quotes Frederick Buechner, who writes,
Literature, painting, music—the most basic lesson that all art teaches is to stop, look, and listen to life on this planet, including our own lives, as a vastly richer, deeper, more mysterious business than most of the time it ever occurs to us to suspect as we bumble along from day to day on automatic pilot. In a world that for the most part steers clear of the whole idea of holiness, art is one of the few places left where we can speak to each other of holy things.
Ha! Do you know what he’s saying? He’s telling me that the two things I thought were incompatible are in fact one and the same. I’ve been avoiding both contemplation and writing because I thought that they were two separate tasks, both of which make me sad and depressed because I would be forced to dwell on the parts of my life that brought me pain. However, contemplation isn’t necessarily for confession and repentance. It’s meant for… contemplation! About the good things! And even during the times when I feel called to dwell on darker subjects, I shouldn’t feel stressed or anxious. I need to approach my time contemplating and writing as a time of celebration: of my life, my faithful God, and the beautiful world around me and how I relate to it! The point of my writing is to remember that the darker times are part of the reason why I am who I am and thus should be approached with a measure of thankfulness. Difficult circumstances are what turn us toward the light and allow us to truly savor moments of joy.
Basically, in other words, I need to be gentler with myself. It’s not mandatory for me to dig down deep into the muddy guilt that I was misled to believe went hand-in-hand with contemplation. Pouring out my sins and feeling horrible about myself in front of God is not the point of contemplation. Contemplation is when I reflect on the important things, which are the beautiful, hopeful, lovely moments God scatters throughout my days. While, sure, occasionally it is healthy to reflect on my sinfulness, who wants to do that every day? Of course I’d be depressed and feel hopeless if all I did was bury myself under my tarnished human nature. God wants me to be joyful in his presence, savoring this life he bestowed upon us.
My writing and contemplation go hand in hand. I need to treat them that way, instead of holding onto these false representations I have in my head.
Do you have any hindrances keeping you from contemplating? What have you done to help yourself feel more comfortable contemplating? Please comment with your thoughts! 🙂