Notice the transforming presence of God within you. Let go of words and images. Surrender all that is stirring, even if only briefly, and rest for a few minutes in God’s embrace.
There is a danger in trying too hard to explain “contemplation”. In some ways, the more words we use, the more ideas we convey, the further we move people away from true contemplation — a letting go of words and thoughts, and a restful awareness of God’s presence. I will, however, share why this part of visio divina is so important to me.
It is often hard for me to move into a place of contemplation, especially after being stirred by the Holy Spirit in the earlier parts of prayer. By the time I am at contemplation, I have spent time listening to Scripture, considering how it called out to me spiritually, using an image to gain new perspective and to listen even closer to what the Spirit might be whispering, and forming all of these experiences into a dialogue with God. It can seem like such a step backwards to let go of all that.
But I’ve also learned that it’s an important step, and that it’s not really backwards. I believe a popular phrase goes, “We’re only human.” Here I don’t offer it as an excuse, but as an awareness — we are human, God is God, and sometimes it’s important to remember that.
Sometimes I catch myself subconsciously putting myself above God. I feel like the lieutenant on the field in the heat of battle, radioing back to a slow-to-respond headquarters for support. “If they only understood what was going on out here, they’d send me some help!” My tendency is to sometimes think that I can “figure prayer out”…that if I really apply myself, if I can pray really hard, I’ll make God understand what it’s like down here, and then maybe I’ll get a response.
Contemplation offers me the reminder to trust in God’s side of the prayer, to believe that God does not sit passively by when I pray, but rather is very much present with me. It helps me move beyond limited analogies (like the lieutenant/headquarters one), and realize that God is unlike anyone else I have ever known.
God is here, working to transform my heart and my life, and God loves me more than I could ever love. That’s worth taking time to ponder.
© Creation, Donald Jackson with contribution by Chris Tomlin, 2003. The Saint John’s Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota. Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.