“Whereas the study of Scripture centres on exegesis, the meditation of Scripture centres on internalizing and personalizing the passage.” – Richard Foster
In these first few weeks of The Practice, we’ve been discussing the spiritual discipline of meditation. However, for the most part, we’ve only been discussing one particular form of meditation, namely, meditation through silence.
This is where you sit and attempt to think about God. As Richard Foster puts it, “It is a time to be still, to enter into the recreating silence, to allow the fragmentation of our minds to become centred.”
There are at least two other forms of meditation we can also explore which we will talk about in this post.
The first is the meditation of Scripture. This is where you focus on a particular passage of Scripture and attempt to enter the story. Try to put yourself into the experience. What’s happening in the passage? Who are the characters? What is the setting? What would it feel like to be there that day?
In this form of meditation, it’s helpful to ask God to give you a particular word or phrase that jumps out from the story.
The point of this form of meditation isn’t to experience Scripture with your head by studying the nuances of Greek, Hebrew or Aramaic. It’s to experience Scripture in your heart and your soul. Allow your mind to wander through the story.
For example, maybe you read the story of the woman caught in adultery. The Pharisees have brought her in front of Jesus while he’s at the Temple in Jerusalem. The air is warm. The crowd is large and angry and in the middle of them is a woman with her sins laid bare.
Who are you in this story? Are you the woman? Are you the self-righteous Pharisees? What does it feel like to stand there before Jesus? What does he say to you? What does this scene smell like? What do you hear?
Ignatius of Loyola encouraged us to pray using all of our senses. I would suggest this applies to meditation as well. Allow your mind to wander through the story and use your imagination to explore the scene. The point of meditation of Scripture is to live out the experience and allow it to take root in you in a way that it doesn’t through study.
The second form of meditation is meditation upon creation. This isn’t to say that you should worship the created order itself but that you should allow the marvel of creation to lift your thoughts to the Creator.
For some of us that means taking a walk through the woods. For others it might mean sitting at the shore and watching the waves come in or hiking up to the top of a mountain and surveying the landscape below.
For me, I’m never caught up in the majesty of God’s creation as much as when I’m looking up at the stars or looking at pictures taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. Every star we see in the sky is part of our own Milky Way galaxy. The Milky Way is a collection of billions of stars spread across 100,000 lightyears (that’s the amount of time it takes light to travel in a year). And yet, there are billions of other galaxies out there millions and billions of lightyears away from us.
And yet, God is there. Our Creator spoke all of it into existence. Entire worlds, solar systems and galaxies that we will never see were created simply for God’s pleasure.
When we meditate on the creation and on the Creator who ordered it all, we realize his glory, his power, and his majesty. When we allow creation to move our thoughts towards God we end up responding like the Psalmist does in Psalm 8 when he writes,
“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingertips, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?