Prepared by Koichi Ohtawa
Pause and Pondering in Life's Journey
A friend of mine saw this message written on a sign on the motor way in the UK: “It is the stop that keeps you going.”
A long-distance driver occasionally stops to rest during his journey. In our life journey, we also need to pause occasionally to rest in God’s grace and ponder, to have our life and ministry motivated and empowered by grace. Without pause and pondering, our journey may become terribly tiring and even boring as Henry Nouwen puts it:
“It is remarkable how much of our life is lived without reflection on its meaning. It is not surprising that so many people are busy but bored! They have many things to do and always running to get them done, but beneath the hectic activity they often wonder if anything is truly happening. A life that is not reflected upon eventually loses its meaning and becoming boring. Spiritual reading is a discipline to keep us reflecting on our lives as we live them.... We have to keep asking ourselves: ‘What does it all mean? What is God trying to tell us? How are we called to live amid all this?’ Without such questions our lives become numb and flat. But are there any answers? There are, but we will never find them unless we are willing to live the questions first and trust that, as Rilke says, we will, without even noticing it, grow into the answer.” [“In Search of Meaning” from Here and Now]
The first step of reflection is to recall the past; yesterday, last week, last month, last 6 months, last year, last 10 years, even the whole life till now. As we “play back” our life journey, we begin to see that our hearts have been deeply influenced or troubled by various events and experiences. Through pondering upon them, we may begin to see their meaning and significance to us, to encounter “the inner reality” of those events and experiences as Richard Foster puts it:
“Although comprehension defines what we are studying, reflection defines the significance of what we are studying. To reflect, to ruminate, on the events of our time (in our life journey) will lead us to the inner reality of those events. Reflection brings us to see things from God’s perspective.... Jesus spoke often of ears that do not hear and eyes that do not see. When we ponder the meaning of what we study (our life journey) we come to hear and see things in a new way.” [“Discipline of Study” from Celebration of Discipline]
How Can I Pause and Ponder in Life's Journey?
1. As God sees us. At the very beginning of my existence God saw me. [Psalm 139:13-16] He knows and perceives my inner and outer activities and is familiar with all my ways (life journey). [Psalm 139:1-5] He has been with me wherever I have been and whatever I have gone through. [Psalm 139:7-12] Nothing is hidden from God’s eyes and there is no place where He is not. Because of God’s eyes upon me and His Presence with me, I can see myself however I have been and my life journey whatever it has been like. The Lord sees me with His loving and compassionate eyes. [Psalm 139:16, Mark 10:21] I can ask the Lord to help me see myself and my life as He sees.
2. Ways to see. Today or yesterday; the last 6 months or 12 months; every 7 or 10 years of my life so far; through windows (e.g., significant encounters, major trials, important turning points, Kairos moments)
3. Recalling and Reflecting. I can ask the Lord to help me remember what He wants me to remember. To find the meaning (significance to myself) of what I remember, I need to reflect on it. Reflection or pondering is essential for growing in the knowledge about myself and God’s dealings with me. It may take time for me to find the meaning but I can live with the question “What does it mean to me?” Each time as I recall and reflect, I can try to find the following: new awareness, deeper realisations, connections between the things which seemed to be separated.
4. Sharing. Sometimes I can share what I have recalled and reflected upon with my friends, if I wish. Sharing only the new awareness, the deeper realisation and the connections I have found can be very meaningful to me and to them.
Looking Back Upon the Past
The period you have chosen to recall and reflect upon: __________________________.
1) What has encouraged, comforted or pleased you and what do you think the core reason or meaning of that event/experience was to you?
2) What has discouraged, disappointed or hurt you and what do you think the core reason or meaning of that event/experience was to you?
3) What trials have you gone through and what do you think the core issue of each trial was?
4) What have you come to see about your faith (relationship with God) through these trials?
5) Have you any new awareness or deeper realization about yourself, your life, the world, and God?
6) What challenges are you now facing and what do you think is the core issue of each challenge?
7) The past seems to me is a time of ________________________. (can be a phrase, sentence, or word)
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