MY PRACTICE THIS WEEK HAS BEEN ABOUT KEEPING MY MIND STILL ENOUGH, at times anyway, such that God can “drop” His thoughts in there. Like a still pool of water waiting for more rain, if my mind is splashing and sloshing around then that fresh water will have nowhere to rest. Maybe this image could be useful to others as you meditate, pray, or just plain make yourself sit still for a minute in order to breathe in some truth.
Unfortunately, at the same time that I am meditating on this, the image also takes me to another place where things have dropped. This month marks the 77th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima in Japan by the United States. It was the first time ever that a nuclear weapon had been used. Fortunately, so far it has been the last. A few days ago I listened to a fascinating interview with the author of a book on the subject:
Lesley M.M. Blume wrote about a New Yorker reporter, John Hersey, who basically let the world know what had actually happened to that Japanese city at the time of the bombing, and just as devastatingly in the days, weeks and months to come. See, apparently our country was none too keen on publicizing that event as anything but a victory over the enemy. American soldiers on the ground in Japan saw it as a “win,” revenge against the egregious attack on Pearl Harbor. Hersey’s reporting is credited as one of the reasons that attack was taken as a cautionary tale by so many — because his audience was provided an eye-witness account of the human destruction that ensued.
So yes, you can see why I have to work so hard for my mind to be still. A smooth body of water can quickly turn into a scorched field of radiation in my imagination. Now this may have something to do with my father’s raison d’etre, which was to end of all military conflict, with a focus on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. He published a lot on the subject, if you’re interested:https://www.thriftbooks.com/a/j-david-singer/488600/
Growing up with my father, as I have shared before, was both a blessing and a curse. (There are probably a lot of kids who would say the same thing about their parents — including mine)! I learned some valuable lessons: that truth was crucial if we wanted to right wrongs; that being popular was thoroughly unimportant (that lesson took a little while to sink in); to pay attention to the world around me at all times (which is exhausting but also great practice for writers and activists). But I also learned — because sometimes we learn things, integrate things, take things in that might not be so great for us — that my problems were never commensurate to the world’s. Bad grades, broken friendships, losing seasons were all utterly petty compared to the world’s problems. Of course this is a fact in the deepest sense, but after becoming a parent myself I realized it was really alright to treat the misplacement of a child’s favorite stuffed rabbit, for example, with an urgency equal to what that child is feeling. Otherwise it makes for kids growing up confused by the contradiction between how they are feeling and how the world is reacting to those feelings. Raise your hand if that sounds at all familiar.
I need to take a moment to still my mind, to let some more thoughts drop in. I am feeling the waves starting to crash hard. Inhale, exhale…
The way I chose to treat my child’s lost toy came from inside of me. It came from what in my tradition we call the Holy Spirit — or the Holy Ghost if we’re not trying to be so buttoned up, as Pastor Smith reminded us last week. As Pastor Kevin spoke on today, the “Holy Spirit is the great teacher and interpreter” for so many of us. Anyone who listens for that message from inside, whether we call it God or intuition or whatever, knows that particular feeling when it happens. (Now, the advantage of faith here is that we don’t spend a whole lot of time, hopefully, questioning said message because well, God). So if I am thinking about breakfast and I hear almond butter, then my only question is, “honey or jam?” And if that same spirit says it’s time to move across the country, well the car and cat get packed up, and off we go.
Meals and moves can turn into wrestling matches, or they can simply be calm moments of realization. It all depends upon whether we are willing to be led “beside the still waters” so our souls can be restored (Psalm 23). Too much planning, too much proscribing, and a drought takes place in our mind. Boulders of fear and worry and control take up space where a flowing spring used to be. And when we get to that rocky place, then there are questions that need to be asked. Like, is that diet you decided to follow really the best thing for your body? That schedule you won’t divert from, how is it working for you? That list of things your next partner must have — is that list inviting love?
Some things that fall should be stopped, like the atomic bomb. There is no waiting around for that message. As far as I can see, it’s already arrived loud and clear. But thoughts, well they can sometimes feel scarier than the “faraway” idea of a nuclear attack. It might be easier to escape our thoughts, but that doesn’t mean we should do so. I’m just going to keep stopping throughout the day, laying bare my mind, body, and soul for God’s thoughts and plans and commands to fall. And I am wondering how you clear your mind to receive truth and love. How do you ensure that nothing “drops into your spirit” — as Pastor Smith is wont to say — which is harmful to yourself or those around you? How do you receive those words meant for you and you alone?