Sunday, October 23, 2016

Jesus Wrote and The Loss of the Contemplative Mind

Jesus preached, blessed, ate, healed, walked, talked and ..........wrote!

John Chapter 8-1-11 described an encounter Jesus had with teachers of the law and Pharisees who asked about a woman caught in adultery. The punishment according to Jewish law was stoning. Before he responded, Jesus took a moment to write in the sand. Verse 6: "But he (Jesus) bent over and wrote on the ground with his finger."

Jesus knew the importance of his answer, so he took a moment to pause and write.

"As they stood there asking him questions, he straightened up and said to them, "Whichever one of you has committed no sin may throw the first stone at her." (verse 7)

After he answers the teachers and Pharisees, he bends over again to write on the ground.

We don't know what Jesus wrote, but he did give an example to pause and reflect before answering.

The End of Reflection

On Sunday, June 12, The New York Times, featured an article by Teddy Wayne called "The End of Reflection." The author recognized a change in his life. In the past when he had extra time, he would "observe or think about my surroundings or take a walk."

Now he notes, "I pick up my phone to check a notification, browse and read the internet, text, use an app or listen to audio or on rare occasions, engage in an old-fashioned "telephone call." The last remaining place I'm guaranteed alone with my thoughts is in the shower."

Wayne quotes Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows. "As our technologies increase the intensity of stimulation and the flow of new things, we adapt to that pace. We become less patient. When moments without stimulation arise, we start to feel panicked and don't know what to do with them, because we've trained ourselves to expect this stimulation."

Carr sees the use of the internet and other electronics as "the loss of the contemplative mind."

We need a contemplative mind to stay in touch with God. If we go with the trends Wayne and Carr are noting in their articles and books, we are doomed to shallow thinking and impatient attitudes.

The January, 2016, issue of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) included a short article, "The Write Way to Slow Down." The article explains, "One thing proven to help you slow down is writing your thoughts and feelings longhand. On paper. It's not just writing; it's taking time to think and process life events. The ritual is an effective way for you to analyze situations creatively and to stay centered during difficult times."

There it is. Writing. The way to slow down.

Jesus modeled it well for us, and John captured the moment when Jesus wrote in the sand.

Returning to Jesus

Jesus knew the Pharisees and teachers of the law were waiting for an answer. Jesus realized the importance of the question required careful thought so he paused, twice to write on the ground.

They were expecting consent to the Jewish law, so Jesus' answer stunned them when he offered compassion and forgiveness.

Of course, no one knows what Jesus wrote before or after he responded or if he wrote something to the woman, to those asking the question, or to God. Perhaps he wrote a prayer asking for wisdom  prior to his answer and a prayer of gratitude afterwards. No one knows.

Jesus offers a model to use not only when we are involved in thought-provoking or difficult conversations or responding to a question with a friend at work, at church or other places.

1. Take a moment to pause before replying. Collecting thoughts and organizing how to phrase an answer can result in an effective and meaningful response and encourages a contemplative mind.

2. Offer a quick prayer for guidance.

3. Write down a few thoughts - after all, the article in AARP reminds us that writing slows us down.

4. Say a short prayer of gratitude for God's help after replying.

Slowing down in today's fast-paced world is a challenge, but necessary. Companionship with God demands times of silence, contemplation and reflection to grow deeper in faith and hear God's voice.

For your reflection:

1. What do you think Jesus wrote in the sand?
2. How can you incorporate Jesus's model of writing before replying into everyday life.
3. What is the value of writing for you?

Prayer: God, advances in communication seem to discourage the contemplative mind. How can we weigh seriously and listen to your voice as we talk with others and consider matters of importance? Help us use Jesus' model of pausing and writing in our interaction and during our time with you. Amen.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, as someone who has written a book about slowing down, I really appreciate the thoughts you've offered here--your reflections on reflecting. If we pause to collect our thoughts, we will likely answer with more depth and insight. Perhaps greater compassion and patience and grace, as well.