IT began two years ago in the passenger seat of Rob Peter’s Mitsubishi Diamante. Two ministers shooting the breeze with preliminary small talk, en route to chips and chimichangas on a balmy Ocala day. We come to a stop at a red light. There was a momentary silence. And then it happened.
“…But, how are you really doing, David?” he asked with a solemn cadence.
Before the response could formulate in my mind, I felt the plastic smiling mask slither down my face, exposing the man who had spent the past month weeping in the shower every morning. My masquerade of Mr. Happy Go Lucky could be feigned no more.
“I’m depressed out of my mind,” I heard myself say out loud. “And the only thing I want is to disappear. And to never be seen again.”
We discussed the why and the how. I gave him the rundown of the people and the circumstances that had driven me there. He mentions Philippians 4 and I start quoting a famous statement from that excerpt. And I, a gospel preacher, the son of a gospel preacher, blanked five words in.
“Whatever is true…whatever is……. Whatever is…….. Righteous? Whatever’s…………? Whatever is…good…?”
He turns, looks deep into my eyes and rebukes me with gentleness in his voice. “That’s your problem right there, David. You don’t know what it says. Your mind is so important and you’re fighting this with your own power. We’ve got to know what it says and do it with all of our heart.”
He was so right I could feel it in my bones. I was doing the opposite of what it says. For me, I was living as if it said, “And finally David, whatever is false, whatever is horrible, whatever is wrong, whatever is negative, whatever is of bad repute, whatever makes you feel like a worthless, incompetent piece of crap, meditate on these things” – when there was a brand new world proliferating with what is true and honorable and right and pure to revel in.
And it was there when I began to grasp just how enormously important the mind really is.
That the mind is to our body as the cockpit is to a plane – and Satan and his forces want to hijack it and fly it into a high rise.
That when he seizes control of our minds, it’s like a malicious virus that infiltrates a computer and overwhelms it with a litany of disturbing pop-ups of Fear and Anxiety and Despair.
It’s like a hoarder’s house with thirty years of garbage and junk stacked to the ceiling with Chinese takeout from November rotting in the refrigerator; green fuzz protruding from the lid. If my mind were a house, it was that kind of a home. And unless I threw all that garbage out, one rancid gag-inducing bag at a time, and swept the house clean, there was no getting better.
That the Christian life really isn’t about cathedrals and church attendance or suits and dresses but our minds being renewed to be more like His.
The chapter of scripture Rob mentored me from is all about releasing our inner chaos through prayer and meditating on what is from the Spirit. When we do, it promises the disciple that the peace of God will guard our hearts – and our minds in Christ Jesus.
Prayer, I already practiced. But meditation, I had never even considered. Even at that time.
The word “meditation” conjured images in my mind of hippies burning incense and smoking peyote. But meditation is biblically defined “to groan and growl; to be deeply absorbed in thought; to silently say something in your heart.”
I was shocked to discover how prominent it actually is in Scripture (Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:2, 19:14, 63:6, 77:12, Colossians 3:2, etc).
Three weeks ago, I finally meditated for the first time. And it is now my favorite thing to do in the world.
As it is with prayer, it doesn’t matter how long you spend doing it. All that matters is you go to a private place where you cannot be distracted – no smart phone, no television, no social media, if there’s a landline, it’s unplugged; just you and God alone (or just you and few others alone), and as I prefer, in the dark.
Here are three simple reasons why every Christian should meditate:
1. It Unshackles The Mind
When I begin, my mind is often racing with negativity and anxiety. Within minutes of intense meditation, I can feel the poison of all that anxiety draining from my heart as peace comes in.
There’s just something about muting all of the noise and escaping the frantic “Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!” of the world that I would rather have than food. When replaced with nothing but silence and Scripture, all of the hellish things rampaging through our minds lose their power in governing our thoughts.
Paul attests, “The mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.”
2. It Opens Our Eyes
A friend of mine was recently struggling with a person he was having conflict with. But while meditating on the peace of the Spirit, he envisioned that person beaten and bleeding out with no one to help them. From that moment, he no longer saw them as an enemy but as someone who is worthy of his compassion. And it forever changed the way he felt about them.
This is where meditation often is difficult and even painful. But it results in having new eyes in addition to a new mind.
3. It Renovates The Soul
Wherever I’m lacking, I find a verse that addresses it and for 10-20 minutes all I do is whisper it out loud, over and over, until it’s the only thing in my mind. Two weeks ago, it was the fruit of the Spirit and all I did was think “Love. Love. Love. Love…”
Then everything I know that Scripture says about it. Then I thought of the people I love most. And then, the people I need to learn how to love.
When I came out of that time of meditating on nothing but the love of God, I felt like I had been to heaven. I did not want to come back. When I stepped outside, the world looked differently. Life felt like a dream as it happened in real time. Even people looked different. I felt a burning love for everyone I saw that was not there before.
You’ll be in your car and someone will cut you off. You slam on the breaks. But you’re not leaning on your horn like you used to. Your eyes aren’t bulging. Four letter words aren’t coming out of your mouth – when heaven is all you care about and the love of God is all you are concentrating on, it transforms the way you respond.
The impact that Rob forever left on my life was the discovery that my mind is a battleground. Satan desires to occupy and to influence it just as much as God does.
Someone is sitting in the cockpit. It might be your worst nightmare. It might be those people from your past who made you feel like you were a waste of life. It might be God, it might be the devil himself. But whoever it is is flying the whole plane, either to Paradise unimaginable or to nosedive it into the ocean.
So how are you doing?
…But, how are you really doing?