(*Quote of the Month)
Some people simply cannot listen to God in scripture. (They) find God most readily in music or in the outdoors. Contemplation… is paying attention to the reality of God. Whenever we get beyond our own small preoccupations, whenever we have some degree of self-transcendence, whenever we are aware of the reality of God, contemplation has begun. If you are absolutely unable to meet God in your Bible, go outside, listen to music, or do whatever you need to do that puts you in touch with Something More.
I am sometimes asked if I am a ‘contemplative’ or an ‘active;’ those who ask often seem to have a pretty settled definition of what each consists of, a much more settled definition than I possess. If it’s from the contemplative side, some of these persons’ definition of ‘contemplative’ seems to entail such adjectives as reflective, thoughtful and philosophical, yet reserved, sometimes introverted; ‘active,’ in these same persons’ construct, can mean brash, unthoughtful and impetuous, doing without thinking. From the active perspective, many type-A’s see the word ‘contemplative’ as a put-down, characterizing a detached naval-gazer who cannot get things done; these persons can often respect only the take-charge pushers, movers and shovers.
To say the least, I find these definitions simplistically lacking. Frankly, I don’t think the contemplative-active spectrum is an either-or kind of thing. In very broad brushstrokes, an ‘active’ is a doer, a ‘contemplative’ a thinker, but this does not mean the one does not possess the ability to do the other. And besides, the doer may be doing absolutely nothing that reflects a Christian worldview or advances God’s blessing, nor the thinker thinking anything of the attributes of God and God’s call to be a servant to his world.
Frankly, I don’t think the contemplative-active
spectrum is an either-or kind of thing…
I’ve been an extrovert all my life, it’s just the way I’m wired. But I will never forget what one of my accountability partners, a quiet man, said years ago, when I told him that I was anticipating an upcoming silent retreat. He blurted, “You’ll never be able to do it. It’ll drive you crazy.” Needless to say, I found him wrong.
I guess the point I am getting at, especially for those of us who are extroverts or chronic doers, is that a little bit of contemplation can go a long way in broadening our own experience of and service to God. John Ackerman -- pastor, spiritual director, and author of Spiritual Awakening -- drills down on the fact that even the Bible may not always take us to a place of peaceful meditation where we meet God as the strength of our souls or hear his call to act. Do we give thought about what else might take us there, like music or nature? Or do we just feel guilty because our Bible reading seems dry or academic? The key, as he says, is to pay attention to the kinds of things that bring us a deeper awareness of the Almighty, and more eagerly pursue these things as an additional spiritual practice.
Try it. Something More may be found.
~~RGM, September 28, 2014