One of my favorite times of the day is what I call office hours. I shut the door to my office, put on piano music, light a candle, and close my eyes. The silence wraps me like a heavy blanket. My thoughts are a bundle of sharp brambles; their edges poke at me, a reminder of the day’s events. It takes a little while for these jabs to subside, and when they do, I pick up the Bible and resume my reading through the book of Mark. One paragraph a night, read, and re-read, until I find myself at the oars in the boat with the disciples…
This time they are grumpy men, arms tired from little progress against the high winds of the sea of Galilea. I can hear them now, talking to one another, fighting the urge to cuss, some not fighting it at all. I know how the story ends, that Jesus will come on the waves, literally seem to ‘walk by.’ But then I hear terror on the lips of these tested sailors. ‘It’s a phantom,’ they bellow and row even harder, thinking to put distance between them and this spectral. I ask myself, why such fear? It’s Jesus coming to their rescue! But then the more I ponder the humanness of these disciples, I realize I would have bemoaned just like them. This is where once again I offer Jesus my heart in transparency, and it occurs to me that I have much to learn, much to grow into, before I become as Paul said in Galatians 2:20, ‘crucified with’ this wind-tossed Wave Walker.
One benefit of contemplative prayer is that it administers prescriptions for re-creation, so that we can better pour ourselves out as God’s will on earth. He does this by building relationship around the words of God. As we read them, contemplate their implications and meanings, God is re-creating a deeper, more authentic belief. Not one based in duty, but in expectancy, that as we walk by faith, He has sprinted ahead of us and is already in the moments we will need His presence. A belief who’s crowning jewel is love.
The discipline of contemplative prayer is one to grow into. Just like grumpy disciples we’re not fully formed. Yet, it is a primary means by which God changes us. Jesus is our most excellent, loving, and patient teacher. Salvation didn’t fix us or make us better. It created us as someone brand spanking new, fully formed in Christ, but still pulling at the oars toward spiritual maturity. It’s work that makes us fit for the hearing, fit for enjoying and fit for the knowing of God’s will on earth, as it is in heaven. Contemplative prayer puts us in that place where God has our attention, and when he has something to say, just as he showed up on the waves, he will break into our mind, and stir our hearts.
I often end my prayer times with poetry. These poems will never win a Pulitzer, but as I write, the value is in the synthesizing of the message, so that God can continue to reinforce the lesson. While I make a poem, God is re-creating me into a more authentic likeness of his love.
He comes now, the Wave Walker,
A phantom to the eyes of little faith.
He stands on the impossible,
Smiles at my wide-eyed disbelief.
I am a child in knowing, a little thief,
For I steal a glance of uncertainty,
I rob miracles and leave contempt.
Hiding behind my gifts and ploys
I’m poor, with little hope, little joy.
Yet, something stirs me to the watch,
Something beyond my strength and will
His form invites me, woos me, loves me
I ask him to come, to join me here
‘Wave Walker!’ My heart cries in fear.
Close, nearer he comes, waits to speak;
In this hour I have no recourse,
The winds still howl, my arms tire
The smallest hope, my will, has fled,
He sees my faith, all else is dead.
Wave Walker, teach me to trust
Bring my tried-and-true plans to naught,
Seal my soul with your Spirit’s gold,
Recreate me through your artist hands,
The storm has calmed, so too my heart;
‘I now see land!’