When I was a kid I was sometimes sent to my room to “think” and to be quiet for awhile if I had done something wrong, knowingly. It especially happened when I was older. I remember loving those few occasions because I usually was able to pull out my Game-boy and play it for an hour straight without my parents knowing. Yet I was missing the point. My time of thinking would last maybe a minute as I decided which Pokemon game I wanted to invest (?!) my time in. And as soon as I heard a voice outside I would quickly save the game, turn it off, and stick it under my pillow (don’t tell my parents, please :) ).
As a child I didn’t need all that much time to think and reflect on what I had done. There was little in my mind, everything was simple and straight-forward. Yet I have seen that as I have grown older, my mind has become more complex and nothing at all is simple anymore. Every action causes a reaction, and every thought a counter-thought. It is tiresome work to think! Yet I preach it always, I tell people, and I tell myself to take time out daily to just be still and think.
I was asked to preach at a youth camp over Christmas this year, and I enjoyed it immensely. I taught about things that I had learned and expressed the things that God had been teaching me. One of the main things I harped on, over and over, was the need for us to take time to “examine our lives”. Psalms 46:10a says, “Be still and know that I am God.” More specifically Jeremiah call us in Lamentations 3:40 to “examine our ways and return to the LORD.” Henceforth one of my favorite quotes has become, ” The life which is unexamined is not worth living” (Plato). Martin Luther King Jr. put it even more bluntly: “If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.” Wow! I think you would agree with me in the fact that we as humans can’t find something worth living for unless we take the time to examine ourselves and the world around us in order to make these huge decisions. Martin Luther King Jr. implied the same outcome (as to what was worth dying for) that Jeremiah did: “let us return to the LORD.” That was what the King lived for–God, and his well-documented fight against racism in America was just one way of out-poring the passion and faith that he had inside of himself.
I will be the first person here to admit that I am a hypocrite though. I do not do what I preach. I think we all do the same thing as humans, we judge and then expect not to be judged. We talk and don’t act. And ironically the men who are the very best at this often become our most important icons–politicians and lawyers. Sadly they tend to be double-minded and word-twisting schemers. Yet I fall in this same category, a hypocrite, for I do not do what I preach, I do not examine my life as I should by not taking enough time to do so.
I preach to Christians and non-Christians alike–“examine your life”. I believe it is something that should be done on a personal level, with each person, on a daily basis. To take time out of every day to think and examine ones decisions, to dissect ones feelings, and to weigh ones behavior. I think it is a crucial part of being a human, a strong-thinker, and a person of integrity.
The lives of two men come to my mind when I ponder this issue.
1. David: David lived a quiet and content life, it seems, especially in his youth. Yet even as he got older and more and more troubles and responsibilities weighed down on him, he still kept one thing a constant in his life: time to himself to think and meditate. His Psalms are practical proof of this. As a yound shepherd, David probably accrued this habbit through hours upon hours of watching sheep peacefully eating and sleeping. A very low-key and lonely job. Many of us, when given time to think, exploit the corrupted parts of our minds–the gossip, the judgemental, the dirty thoughts, etc. Yet, it seems, when David took time to think, good and pure things came forth, for he was constantly meditating on the Word of God and his promises to his people Israel.
David makes it clear, through his writing, that not only do we need time to think, but also good material to think about. I believe the fact that most of us have little to nothing profitable or clean to ponder on makes it so that we do not want to take time on a regular basis. We must fill our minds with the Bible and that will produce wholesome and pure thoughts.
2. CS Lewis: I was scrolling through a memoir of CS Lewis that was loaded with beautiful pictures of England, mostly around Oxford, where CS Lewis lived. Several pictures were chosen that caught my attention: pictures of lonely paths wandering through the forests in the outskirts of town. The subtitles below it explained, as did the writing in that part of the book, that CS Lewis took walks daily through these forests on these long and lonely roads; walks that often lasted several hours. I was amazed and gripped.
The reason was because CS Lewis, as a writer, is my hero and I admire him greatly and I personally consider him one of the best writers in history (not for his fictoin but for his practical Theology) . Yes, the quiet, single professor from Oxford College. He has been a great inspiration to me, and a foundation for my own writing. Yet here it is, practical advice, leaping out to me from the page. It asked me: “Do you really want to be like CS Lewis?” And my answer is simple: “Yes.” Oh-oh, but I don’t want to take a 3 hour walk every day! And that makes me a hipocrite–I know what I can do to become better, and I preach it and express this feeling to all the people I meet, yet I do not do it. At least, I do not do it like I would like.
Maybe one of your heros is another person: is it David, or Jesus, or Plato, or Luther, or Queen Elizabeth, or Churchill, or Luther King? The great men and women of history have always had one thing in common: they are filled with purpose and it has always been kindled by a strong personal time, in silence and/or in prayer.
Try it! Go through the book of Luke and place a sticky note beside every verse that talks about Jesus praying or shows Jesus alone somewhere, pensive and in thought or in agony. The number is in the dozens, and the references are not an accident. Sure Jesus was the greatest man to ever walk the planet, but he himself acknowledged that his strength came from his Father and thus through prayer and spending time in communication with him.
I challenge you: Take an hour today or as soon as you can to sit and meditate on what you read in the Bible today, or take that hour and pray to God as your Father. Don’t just go through the routine because it is what it is expected of you, but do it because it is the best possible thing you can do for yourself and for your future (not in a selfish way, though). The truth is that you don’t know where you are going until you have examined where you have been; or else you will keep doing what you always did and you will keep failing like you always have. Let us say as David said in Psalms 139:23 “Search me O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!”
Or do you not want to be so exposed?