The first sermon I heard this year was on Ps 101:2-3a. It was a great sermon based on amazing words. “I will ponder the way that is blameless…I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless.” These were the first verses I began to memorize for the year. Easy words to read and to say but I have struggled to live them out especially the first three words, “I will ponder”.
Pondering takes time. Pondering isn’t something that can be rushed. There is no microwaving, tweeting, or status updating when it comes to pondering. Pondering is very simple yet extremely complex. But here the Psalmist lays out for us an incredible spiritual discipline that yields amazing results in our effort to be like Jesus. But it takes time.
The simplicity of pondering is that it can be done anywhere, anytime. All you need to do to ponder is to think. It’s that simple. The complexity comes from the depth and width that thinking can take. The better one is at imagining, the better the brainstorming, the better the rehearsing things in your mind and therefore the more complex the pondering can be.
Here’s how it works. First, find an area in your life you want to be less blameless in. That is, what’s an area of growth? If you aren’t sure then take a piece of paper, sit down, ask Jesus to show you all the areas in your life that you could improve in and start writing. Now you know what to work on and the pondering can begin. There are two key things you want to ponder one. The past, that is, how are things not living up to the standards of Jesus. And secondly the future, that is, what would it like if you were more mature in Christ, if you had more of the fruit of the Spirit pulsing through your veins.
Now be careful in these two steps. In the first step, there is no condemnation. Jesus has dealt with the guilt and shame of our sinfulness so this isn’t a time to beat yourself up over your failures. Observe. That’s it. Observe your actions, your feelings, your motivations, your bodily response. But, do not beat yourself up. This is where you are at in your journey, embrace it so that you can move on from it. And don’t ponder here too long. You don’t want to get stuck just thinking of the past. You need to move forward.
And don’t do this alone as you will just get your thinking on the matter. Jesus promises to teach you and guide you through the Holy Spirit so ask for Christ’s wisdom, ask for divine input, seek God’s grace to help you ponder. As you ponder the situation as it is seek the blameless path. What could be different? How could you have responded differently? What would be a better motivation? Are there any attitudes that aren’t quite right? What was the trigger that lead to the sinful offence? If you could change one moment, one split second, what would it be? An attitude? An action? A feeling? How would that have changed the situation?
Once you have the change in your mind then begin to rehearse it over and over again. In the moment of crisis our instincts dictate what we do and how we do it. Once we are angry or afraid it’s too late our emotions and core responses have taken over. Who we are will come out whether we want it to or not. So find that trigger and make the change in your mind and then replay and replay and replay and rehearse and rehearse and rehearse. What are your new feelings? What beliefs are running through your mind now? What thoughts are bubbling to the surface? How are you brining the kingdom to bear in this situation? Your response may not be perfect as there are many stepping stones from where we are to Christ but pondering allows to rehearse and practice being closer to Christ than we are right now. Let me give an example.
Recently I was involved in a car crash that led to me punching the guy in the face (it’s a long story). As I pondered the situation with Jesus I realised that the moment I got out of the car and spoke I was already on the wrong path that would not leave me blameless. The first words I spoke to the other guy were, “Why did you try to go around me?” Not a good question. He was in the wrong because he tried to go around the outside of me while I was turning – but there’s the problem, at this moment in time, who cares who is at fault? Do we need to immediately assign blame? Is there are a greater concern at this point than who is wrong and who caused the accide? What I should have said is, “Are you ok?” My immediate response was to assign blame, to make it immediately clear to everyone around that I am the innocent party in this crash. I think a better response is to make sure that people aren’t hurt, that there are no injuries, that I’m more concerned about his health than his guilt. Perhaps the situation would have continued to go south anyway and perhaps I would have ended up punching him (it’s a long story) but I wasn’t blameless in response even before the punch flew. I inflamed a situation, I showed little concern for one made in the image of God, I could have handled it better.
And so I ponder. Knowing the change I want to make I ponder the feelings, I ponder the other person, I ponder the grace I could bestow, I ponder the concern I could demonstrate, I ponder. And as I ponder I allow myself to see who I am right now – no denial. I face my true self in order to change. No guilt. No condemnation for I am in Christ. As I ponder and ponder and ponder I notice a shift in my thinking, my feelings, my behaviour in my mind. I notice my response move from assigning blame to seeing the other driver as one made in the image of God deserving great concern. The feelings and response become easier in mind. The real test of our course will be my next accident. Luckily, living in India means that it won’t be too long before I get another chance to test my growth. But there are hints that the difference is seeping through into my real world.
The way I am responding to my children when they do something wrong is changing. The way I respond to interruptions is changing. The way I talk to myself when I make a mistake is changing. The pondering of one event is impacting other events and that’s the power of pondering and the power of growth. Growth in one area of our lives leads to growth in others. And pondering is a wonderful spiritual discipline that can help us to grow in Christ.
Have you tried pondering? How has it worked it for you? I’d like to hear your story on how pondering has helped you change.
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The challenge of pondering is that it takes time and mental energy. It’s difficult to live a fast paced life and be still enough to ponder but this discipline more than pays for itself in the time and energy you give it.