I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
The great spiritual father and author Eugene Peterson used to tell a story about his pet dog when they lived in a Montana forest. The dog would love to find old deer bones in the woods and bring them back to the porch. After the original show off phase (dogs need constant affirmation to protect their egos), once the dog was sure everyone was impressed, it would finally saunter off and begin the real delight... chewing on that bone for hours, getting every bit of flavor possible.
Peterson says that often, the dog would bury the bone only to dig it up the next day and resume the gnawing. And while it did it would let out this low, delightful growl.
Isaiah 31:4 gives an image of a lion "growling over its prey," so deeply consumed with the meal before it that it wouldn't even pay attention to shouting shepherds in the background.
"Growling" here isn't an aggressive word. It's more like a pleasant purr of a completely contented animal that is all-consumed with enjoying its prize.
That's what Peterson was seeing as he watched his dog "growling" over his bone, tail wagging. And interestingly, that Hebrew word used for the growling lion in Isaiah is the exact same word used over and over in the Bible. But most often, it's used to speak of "meditating" on God.
The Psalmist uses it throughout the Psalms...
I will sit and gnaw on your Word.
At night I will savor your righteousness.
I will meditate on your works, O Lord
When the Psalmist speaks of meditating on God, he's talking about an experience of immersing himself in thoughtful enjoyment. He's sitting with the stories of God in no rush. He's thinking about the beauty of God's earth without distraction. He's savoring the presence of God with him. He's just sitting there, thinking about it. He's slowly, calmly.... chewing. Growling. That's the image.
So much of life is moving us away from slow, thoughtful chewing. We don't have time to ruminate on things. Quick! Figure it out! Form an opinion and share it, NOW! Ok, on to the next thing!
I feel that pull too, of moving away from thoughtfulness. Our lives cruise along at an unnecessary pace. Our devices, jobs, commitments, and entertainment can strip us of the space to really sit and growl over anything. Savoring and meditating is becoming a lost art.
But something happens when we take the time to chew on the goodness of Jesus.
We find that there's more flavor there than we realized. And there is far more nutrition in a slow meal than fast food. Becoming like Jesus and growing in wisdom means sitting and ruminating on the way of love. You can't rush through discipleship quickly.
Friends, we have to be intentional if we want to stay grounded these days. The beauty and intimacy that comes from slow moments of meditating on Jesus rarely come naturally. It will be a choice to slow down. It will be a choice to turn things off. It will be a choice to pay attention. But as we do, we begin to find that God's goodness is accessible in fresh ways.
The amazing thing about meditating on God's work is that it won't only impact us in the deep internal places. It will lead us to better neighboring too. A practice of thinking slowly on God's care will lead to patience. Ruminating on the heart of Jesus will lead to grace for others. Sitting in contemplation will lead to increased compassion. We will start to notice God not only in the written words of scripture, but written on the faces we see when we look up from the pages.
At my church, we just finished working through Genesis. I covered 22 chapters of the Bible in the last two Sunday sermons! It was fun, but my goodness, it was a lot of fast moving. I'm ready to just sit and chew a bit more. On a word, a phrase, a verse, a thought. I need a season of slow, growling meditation. Maybe you do too.
What would happen if you gave yourself some time today to enjoy chewing? Just a few unhurried, beautiful moments of thinking, with the Spirit of God quietly dwelling beside you?
Jesus, slow me down enough to be formed in new ways today.