I’ve had an ongoing conversation with a handful of church members about meditation on the Scriptures. We’ve been talking about how we practice meditation, what it is, and how we can increase in the blessing it brings to us. We all agree, as do many Christians throughout history, that meditation moves from merely reasoning the words of Scriptures towards sensing the words.
Just as we have 5 physical senses, taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing that we use to live in and experience the world around us, inwardly our imaginations possess those same qualities.
- If I asked you to think about your mother’s voice you can hear it. She doesn’t have to be in the room with you, but you hear her speaking. Her voices lives inside you.
- Remember, when as a kid, you walked barefoot outside in the height of Summer? You’re running down the line of woods near house and the sweetness of honeysuckle washes over you. Following your nose, you locate the vine overflowing with white and butter-yellow blossoms. Carefully pulling the stem, that one drop of nectar hits your taste buds.
In meditation we imaginatively use our senses, much like we do in remembering, in order to contact with and hear the text.
In Bible study we de-contextualize and isolate texts. We dissect words, relationships, structure, and meaning. We stand over and above the text as interpreter. We bring our questions to the Bible ask it to answer us. We reason with the text. Our rational capacities engage, and the result is knowledge and understanding.
In meditation we see, taste, touch, smell, and listen to Scripture. We sense it. The Word becomes our guide as we sit under and beneath it. We don’t ask it questions, as much as it addresses us and calls us to answer. We sense the text. We descend with the mind, down into the heart. We laugh, smile, cry, gasp, and wonder. Truth becomes light. Law becomes pain. Grace issues forth into song.
Jonathan Edwards left us an example of what it means to sense the Scriptures:
I very frequently used to retire into a solitary place, on the banks of Hudson’s River, at some distance from the city, for contemplation on divine things and secret converse with God: and had many sweet hours there. I had then, and at other times, the greatest delight in the holy scriptures. Oftentimes in reading it, every word seemed to touch my heart. I felt a harmony between something in my heart, and those sweet and powerful words. I seemed often to see so much light exhibited by every sentence, and such a refreshing food communicated, that I could not get along in reading; often dwelling long on one sentence, to see the wonders contained in it; and yet almost every sentence seemed to be full of wonders.
He’s reading the Bible, but he’s being touched, and handled. Looking at words on a page he senses his interior person pulsing with harmonic vibration in response to the Word. The words taste sweet, yet in them he also submits to a superior strength pressing against him. Every sentence deserves the attention to detail given to a mouthful of wine, wonders beyond wonders available to the patient and perceptive. Meditation is participation in the living world of the text.