Mystics Get a Bad Rap*
There was a time in my life when my spiritual journey was stuck. My prayers seemed to be hitting the ceiling. Nonetheless, I dutifully went through the spiritual rhythms expected of me, such as having my quiet time with God, participating in worship, and serving others. I was doing all the right “stuff,” but for all the wrong reasons. My spiritual life had become duty. The momentary satisfaction of “checking all the boxes” as it related to my spiritual life ceased to satisfy me.
My quest for deeper intimacy with Christ led me to study a group of spiritual fanatics known as the Desert Mothers and Fathers. These people were early Christians, mainly monks and nuns, living in solitude in the deserts of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria around the 3rd century A.D.
During that time, there was disillusionment among these believers as it related to the influence of the government on the Church. In response, this radical band of believers withdrew from society, lived in solitude, and practiced extreme charity and forgiveness. Their austere lifestyle greatly influenced the spiritual practices of John Wesley, the birth of Methodism, and the Quakers. There were shades of this “sold–out Christianity” seen in the early days of The Salvation Army.
Meditation was very much a spiritual rhythm of these early–day Christian mystics.** Unfortunately today, meditation has morphed into the idea of sitting cross–legged on the floor and humming a mantra under your breath, an image and practice made popular by many eastern religions. This is not what David had in mind when he wrote, “Blessed is the one … whose delight is in the Lord, and who meditates on His law day and night” (Psalm 1:2).
The word “meditate” has its roots in the word “chew.” Have you ever noticed that a cow always seems to be chewing something? The reason is because cows must chew their food twice in order to digest it properly. Cows spend nearly eight hours a day chewing their cud. This, plus normal chewing of food, can result in 40,000 jaw movements per day. If we really want to “chew” on the Word, we must repeat or rethink what we are digesting when we open the Word of God.
Meditation is not frivolous. We need to keep our performance mode in balance with times of meditation, otherwise we run the risk of our service to others coming from an empty, dry place. Is being still and meditating a challenge for you? Having trouble figuring out where to begin? Try some visualization to settle your mind. Visualization, simply put, is using your sanctified imagination. We delight in watching our children use their imagination during times of play as they pretend to be super heroes or princesses. There comes a time in life when we are scolded for “daydreaming” and taught to constantly stay in the moment. Jesus encouraged using our imagination when He shared parables as a means of spiritual revelation. Christ used sheep and shepherds or farmers and seeds to convey spiritual truths.
Are you ready to use your sanctified imagination to go deeper with God? Put aside your concerns about being branded a daydreamer or millennial mystic. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit simple pictures or everyday stories can be used to mature our faith, encourage our souls, and bring spiritual understanding.
The next few articles in this series will give visual scenarios that you may want to meditate upon to strengthen your soul and allow the Lord to speak to you. We are cautioned, “Don’t let your mind run away with you,” and that is good advice, but the spiritual advantages of letting your mind run away with Jesus are priceless!
by Major Lauren Hodgson
* The rest of Major Hodgson’s “Meditation” series is coming soon.
** A mystic is a person who seeks by contemplation and self–surrender to obtain unity with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute, or who believes in the spiritual apprehension of truths that are beyond the intellect.