I stole away from "real" life a couple weekends ago with 200+ Gordon students who accepted leadership positions of various kinds for the 2014-2015 school year. We were attending the LEAD Conference, a 27-year tradition of equipping students to serve in leadership at Gordon.
This year marked my 4th LEAD. I attended my first as a bright-eyed Freshman, deeply uncertain of myself yet building a cautious life upon an innate desire to love others well. I knew so little about Gordon. I didn't know Barry Loy from Adam, and I certainly didn't understand what role the Board of Trustees or GCSA or the President's Cabinet played in campus life. My college experience was a blank canvas, and LEAD felt like one of the first brushstrokes.
This year, I was attending as a staff member and a part of the LEAD planning committee. I'd been asked (or maybe I volunteered...) to speak on Sunday morning, before the participants' "Solo Time", when they dispersed on their own for an hour before our last group gathering of the weekend.
When I sat down to write a few words about what "solo time" means, I thought about that girl in the powder blue hoodie, beaming from ear to ear. I thought about her hopes, her dreams, and her perceptions of what it means to be a good leader. I thought about the lie buried deep in her gut that what she did or did not do mattered most of all.
I thought about her, and I wrote this. I pray it meets you in whatever state of stressed or busy or overworked you may be in today (because Mondays and end of the year and graduation and...) and that each of us, whether dubbed with the title of "leader" or not, will grow increasingly more aware of God's relentless pursuit with each passing day.
A Case for Contemplation
I’m so thankful for the opportunity to be here this morning. This day is a gift-handmade for us by the living God-and I get the joy of sharing it with you. Not only that, but I get to begin this day talking about, and then practicing one of the most important and countercultural acts we may ever partake in our entire lives.
Today, you and I get to contemplate.
Some of you may be thinking, “Sounds good, Lacy. Sounds a lot like Quiet Time or Devotionals or the Bible reading plan that I have on my phone. What’s so different about this contemplation thing?”
(And maybe, perhaps, for some of you, buried deep within that question is this other question: “I have tried so many times in so many ways. Can I really pursue God this way?”)
Contemplation is actually quite the opposite of what you’re describing.
This morning, I want to propose to you that in all of our praying and reading and writing and singing and talking and serving, in all that we do, it is not just you who pursues God.
God is pursuing you.
In fact, He does it daily. Relentlessly.
He is pursuing you this very second.
If you want to know how, all you have to do is pay attention to your life.
What did you think pursuit would look like? A wild car chase southbound on 128? Something extreme and unexpected?
Pursuit looks like a ball of fire rising slowly over a cavernous lake at the foot of a forest.
It looks like fresh, green life shooting up from dirt floors.
It feels like a gentle breeze and sounds like splashes of rain outside your window or the laughter of your friends after you've told a joke.
And pursuit takes unexpected forms, too.
Pursuit can look like letting go.
It looks like bare winter branches and Canadian geese that poop on our Quad and money (so. much. money.) that just can’t seem to show up in time for class registration.
It looks like heartbreak and loneliness and divorce and life-threatening illness because resurrection power, the kind we celebrated on Easter Sunday, was made for dead places.
This is our life. It is good and it is bad and it is ugly and it is how God pursues you, right now.
Contemplation is the art of paying attention to this pursuit.
Here’s the thing, friends:
The world does not need more distracted leaders.
The world does not need leaders who are inaccessible and unavailable.
The world does not need leaders who size up their worth by the size of their day planners or who keep track of purpose and meaning by keeping track of the number of appointments they’ve penciled on to the pages.
The world does not need leaders so accustomed to commotion and instantaneous action that they consider impatience a virtue.
We have enough of those sorts of leaders already.
What our world needs-desperately-are leaders who are paying attention to God.
We need leaders who listen, who take time out of their day for stillness and silence, who are tuned in to the ways that God is speaking in our world.
You may have heard this phrase before:
We are human beings, not human doings.
Write that down in your notes somewhere. It's worth remembering.
And I know what you’re up against as I say these words.
I know we are part of a community that places a high value on activity, on self-motivation, on multitasking and efficiency and capability.
I know the cultural current is rushing in the direction of do-more, say-more, produce-more, consume-more.
But your behavior today forms your habits tomorrow.
If you are stressed, busy, over-committed and anxiety-ridden today,
I have news for you.
You will be a stressed, busy, over-committed and anxiety-ridden tomorrow. And the next day. And the month after that.
Yes, even after graduation.
If this pace is all you know, it is all you will do. It is all you will be.
You have to practice peace. You have to practice stillness. You have to practice paying attention the life around and within you.
We are not naturally inclined to these ways of being.
The term “awkward silence” is a great example of how we treat stillness in this day and age. We don’t like it. It seems counterproductive to do nothing but watch and wait, to close our mouth and open our eyes wide.
But this paying attention, if we lose this, we lose a holy sanctuary in which Christ can dwell.
So, for the next hour, we’re going to get awkward.
We’re going to contemplate.
Find a spot that awakens your senses,
Pull up a chair to a beautiful window view
Bundle up and go outside, which I’ll probably do-maybe down on the beach by the water or on a bench in that cool outdoor auditorium thing to the right of this room.
Go where you can be still and listen.
Maybe you could begin by journaling a few thoughts in the blank sheets in your workbook or reciting the Our Father slowly and carefully.
But after a just little activity, I challenge you to stop and be still and behold your God.
Acknowledge His presence and His pursuit.