Bella and the Practice of Contemplation

The day stretched before Bella like a wide-open white square on an oversized calendar. She lay in bed and listened to the birds outside. It nurtured a childlike sense of wonder – if the birds sang in English what would their song say? What if she imagined that God sent them to sing for her as an expression of His love and delight to see her wake up to another day He made? Thoughts like this always lifted her and she wished she could always think this kind of way. It nurtured her experience of being the beloved like nothing else.

It didn’t take long before her naturally busy mind began to think of all the things she could accomplish on a day with no appointments. She wished she could put blinders on as she got up and walked to the bathroom…it was such a default to notice everything that needed fixing. The window had been left open in the night and the rain mixed with eavestrough dirt had blown into the bathtub. Down the stairs, she noticed their need to be vacuumed. Making the coffee, she was drawn to the filter that had dried coffee in its crevices which then made her look at the kettle that needed a vinegar wash. Sitting at the table, she pushed the crumbs from the kids onto the floor with the other dirt that needed to be swept up. You get the idea. Bella was a doer and a very efficient doer at that! As she sat with her coffee, she faced this about herself and knew that without the Spirit’s help and some intentionality on her part, the day would be swallowed up with achievements. Like a hole in a bucket, they would fall through after a few days, needing to be addressed once more. And she would have missed the opportunity to be still with God.

She went out onto the porch with her coffee. Ah, it was a lovely day. She sat and wrapped her hands around the warm mug and closed her eyes. “Oh Spirit, there is so much you want to give me as I rest from doing today. Please help me to be present to each delight You place before me. I know it is Your desire to refresh me and bless me.” Slower thoughts. Less compulsive desire to move and to do.

There was space in her mind for God to plant thoughts now. “Rest in my love.” She sighed deeply.

Bella knew that her part was to consent to this rest. She confessed to God, “Oh, Your love is so wonderfully restful. It is an ocean; it is a soft place and a strong place. It is laying down in the pasture and feeling still waters flow through my soul. Help me with my attachments to achieve and tendencies to move away from myself and even from intimacy with You. I know I need to rest.”

She could feel the urge to move and calmed this busy place inside of her. Placing her hand over her heart, she took a moment to feel its warmth. “Stay,” she whispered to her soul, “stay.”

She breathed deeply, following her breath. It didn’t go very far down. It met her stress of the last week. She persevered – another breath went a little further. The next breath further, until it went down to her toes freely. She turned her hands down on her lap. Imagining Jesus’ presence, she named her cares, the heavy things, the burdens. Tears – surprisingly warm, fell onto her down turned palms. She remembered her mother saying that it was a good thing to cry. Tears release pent up strain and remind us of our humanity and need for help.

She turned up her hands to receive. Receiving can be hard, there has to be space and welcome to receive. Bella received God’s presence and love. He did not give her answers; He did not change the things she wished could be changed. But His presence took her to a different place – a place where His love hushed her striving like a child rocked by his or her mother. She imagined Jesus saying things like, “It’s going to be okay,” “Don’t worry,” “Just rest.” She had reached the place where she wanted to stay; the urge to move was gone.

Definition of Contemplation: the action of looking thoughtfully at something for a long time.

“How amazing,” she thought, “by looking, listening, pausing, and staying, I’ve been led to look at God through such simple gifts. Even better, she had experienced being looked at by God.

Photo by Hatham - Unsplash

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