Thursday, 18 December 2014

Time to stop and think

Mary treasured up all these things, and pondered them in her heart.  Luke 2:19
How good are you at “pondering

I rather like that word: it’s somehow so gentle and quiet. The Greek, in fact, means literally "to throw together", as if you are making a conscious effort to collect up as many thoughts as you can to have a good look at them. To ponder is not a negative thing, like gazing vacantly at the wall-paper. No, it is to reflect, to muse, to allow something to germinate and grow in your mind, to "turn something over", as we sometimes say. Putting it at its simplest, it is to think with a view to action

Well, if ever anyone had plenty to ponder, that person was Mary. Luke gives the impression that the immediate drama of Christmas is over. The baby Jesus is safely born. The shepherds have come and gone. 

Now there is a little breathing space for Mary and Joseph to get used to what has happened. Wouldn't it be fascinating to know what they talked about together..? “Are we fit to be the parents of this child? What shall we do next? What do the gold and incense and myrrh really mean? What are we to do with the gold, incense and myrrh! What can the future possibly hold for us?”

I don't mean to be sentimental, but I can picture Mary, still as a statue, sitting there by Jesus's manger and allowing the full wonder of what has happened to her to soak into her mind.

This wasn't the last time Mary pondered. Later in the chapter we read the story of Jesus getting lost in the temple as a boy of 12. Every parent's worst nightmare! "Where's Jesus?" "I thought he was with you..." "No! I thought he was with you...!" All ends well, of course, as they discover him debating with the learned scholars in the temple. But Luke tells us this time that "his mother treasured all these things in her heart" (verse 51).

And I suspect it carried on, as Jesus grew up to be a man. Read Mark 3:31-35 and I think you'll agree with me that she still had plenty of pondering to do - and it wasn't always of an easy kind. Not to mention, of course, the heart-breaking John 19:25...

So back to my original question: are you good at pondering? Do you allow yourself time and space to stop and reflect on what God is doing in your life? When you get to the end of a day do you ever stop and "throw together" into your mind the events, the words, the successes and the failures, the people you have met, the things you have heard, the pleasures and the irritations, and seek to make some sense of them?

When I was a young Christian we were encouraged to have a daily "quiet time" in which to get alone with God and give him the breathing-space to work in our minds and hearts. Sadly, that practice seems never to have become part of many Christians' lives. 

I think we are the poorer for it. Indeed, the psychiatrists and doctors (not necessarily Christians) suggest that we would have far fewer nervous breakdowns and heart-attacks if only we could learn to build such pondering times into our lives. Life is just too frantically busy. We are daily bombarded with input from television, papers, books, the social media, plus the normal duties and demands of life, which we never allow ourselves time to "process".

So picture for a moment, please, the pondering Mary. Think yourself inside her skin. Why not make a conscious effort to follow her example?

Dear Father in heaven, I never expect to experience anything remotely like what happened to Mary. Yet I do believe that you are at work in my life. Help me to learn the skill of pondering, of being quiet in your presence while I digest what you are saying and doing, and so become a deeper and wiser follower of Jesus. Amen.

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