A crazy search for peace
I remember the grassy hill, the floating clouds in the blue sky… and the moment the angst suddenly turned to unexplainable peace.
It was September 1969, and I was beginning my second year at the University of Oregon. My parents, who were paying my tuition, had just moved from Portland, Oregon to Washington DC, and suddenly I wondered if I had become an out-of-state student with double the tuition. Panic ensued.
I ran upstairs to vent my fear to a dear friend. I barely noticed she was talking to someone else at the time, my red-hot anxiety overwhelming any sense of others. In sharing the circumstances with my dear friend, I hoped for a brilliant solution that was not as blatantly wrong as my first impression: lying to the registrar.
Her friend, paused and looked me straight in the eye with a bold question, “Hi, I’m Robin, are you a Christian?”
“What? She couldn’t tell?” I thought to myself. She simply asked if I wanted peace more than anxiety because she had a good solution if that was my hope.
“YES! Both… a solution to the problem AND peace!” I answered.
“I have an idea for the peace part.” Her confidence stunned me.
“Memorize James 1:2-8 and then meditate on it until you have peace.”
It was that simple… and that hard.
I had met the Lord three years before, and I was all in from the very beginning: attending church whenever the doors opened, choosing new friends, and sharing my faith with my peers. I’ll have to admit, my parents were a bit unnerved by my zeal. One day I overheard their discussion, “She’ll settle down. This won’t last long.”
And a teenage conviction of: I’LL SHOW THEM swept over me. I would prove to them that this was not a passing fad. This was real!
That walk on a sunny, fall day became a defining moment for me.
In those years, the process of class registration was two long, hard days of hurry and wait. Run from building to building, wait 2-3 hours in line and hope to get your name on the list. Then start running again. I had time and accepted Robin’s challenge from the book of James. I was that desperate.
When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my [sisters], don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends. Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let that process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become a [women] of mature character with the right sort of independence…”
I had time to “meditate.” With no idea of how peace could show up, I blindly believed Robin that it would. She seemed so sure. I wrote the passage on a card and began memorizing.
The first day I had the words. Day Two I simply repeated them to myself with every moment not otherwise occupied. I spoke them silently and out loud, slow and fast, in phrases and one-word-at-a-time with pauses between.
After registering for my final class, with no answer to the registration dilemma or peace in my heart, I walked over that grassy knoll from the Student Union to my dorm room. And suddenly, like a flash from heaven to my troubled soul, I got it.
When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my sisters, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends. Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let that process go on…
This WAS a trial. And I DID resent it. What if I, instead, WELCOMED it? What if I saw it as the friend who would build ENDURANCE in me?
Could this intentional move be the proof to my wondering parents and friends who still thought I might outgrow – or at least mellow down – my faith?
I did the hard work of welcoming and renaming. And in that moment, I had peace and soon after followed the wisdom I needed to solve my registration challenge.
Robin was right. Meditation did transform me.
I come to the Lord with “meditation” on my mind today as I prepare to lead a small group in a study of Reclaiming the Art of Biblical Meditation by Robert Morgan.
Meditation has gotten a bad rap, some hijacking has occurred. Like Morgan, I was in the formative years of adulthood when it happened. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was making the college rounds in America teaching young, impressionable minds the craft of Transcendental Meditation (TM).
Morgan summarizes, “He told us to sit properly, breathe deeply, and empty our minds.” It caught on… as the Biblical practice began to fade in its blaze.
But Morgan reminds us that “God, not the gurus, devised it, and it’s based on the Bible, not on Buddha. Then he offers some meat. In the Bible:
meditate and meditation occur 21 times
think, thinking and thoughts occur 252 times
mind is mentioned 165 times
ponder is found 9 times
I’ve experienced the power of Romans 12:1-2:
“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
Biblical meditation does even more than knowing God’s will – as if that amazing promise is not enough motivation to learn how to understand and embrace God’s Words.
Morgan testifies to this power of meditating on the Bible:
“Biblical meditation is the habit that allows us to pause long enough to be still and to know that God is God. It leads us to spiritual growth, emotional strength, deepening intimacy with the Lord, and soul-steadying peace.”
I’m excited to learn more about meditation. It’s been a life-long journey of practicing it and, periodically, letting it float by. A group of like-minded friends, hungry to be changed by God, will be my inspiration and encouragement over the next months. I’m eager to see what God will do inside – and outside – of us.
“Biblical meditation is the powerful practice of pondering, personalizing, and practicing Scripture.”
- Robert Morgan
TO CONSIDER: Discover a verse today that speaks to your heart and begin to make it yours. Brace yourself for a possible defining moment of your own.