I want to let you know about what I have found to be the most important habit in my life these days, and why I think you should make it a habit as well. The habit is meditation, but not just generic meditation. I've spent nearly two years investing a few minutes of each morning meditating on my identity in Christ.
The fruit of meditation is that I've felt empowered to live in what I call "ground truth" more consistently than at any other time in my life. "Ground truth" is the phrase I use to describe the foundational truth(s) upon which I'll build my life. Every person's sense of meaning and calling come from their ground truth, which is essentially a person's completion of this sentence:
At the core of my being, I am most fundamentally defined, and most fundamentally define myself as __________________________.
"I am my friendships"
"I am my health, and the hobbies I can do because of it".
"I am my grades" or if I'm employed, "I am my role in the org".
"I am a parent" or "spouse" or "lover" or "care-giver".
"I am an influencer".
"I am my faith"
"I am my collection of travels and experiences".
Perhaps nobody would actually say these things, but the reality is that these values, and others like them become foundational in millions of lives.
I've spent the summer reading through the book of Ecclesiastes as part of my morning routine, and one of things I've learned through that pursuit is that these things are lousy foundation material because they're vaporous. Trying to build a life on them is like trying to capture smoke. Sure, your health, or six figure job, or bliss filled marriage is here now, but the truth of the matter is that it's not going to last.
As we get older, we see this first hand. Jobs end, one way or the other. Spouses, even in the happiest of marriages, get sick and one's left lonely. In spite of cross fit, intermittent fasting, vegetarian diets and cold showers, everyone ultimately goes "the way of all flesh" as the Bible says. Nations die too, including democracies. There are reasons nations die, but that's a different topic for a different day. For now it's important to realize that a lot of things we seek as sources of meaning in our lives are contingent and temporary, and as a result, we're in a state of anxiety and fear. "What if the blood test turns something up?" "What if the market keeps going down?" "What if my spouse and I can't solve this impasse?" "What if my children aren't successful, or healthy?"
This is a terrible way to live! Jesus came so that we might be empowered to live lives of peace, and not just any peace, but a peace that is "beyond understanding" and "not like the peace of this world" which is to say that we have access to a peace without any contingencies. We can, in other words, continue to know peace, and thus have resources to serve and love others, even when the world is on fire, the flames of which are seen in our tribalism, individualism, gun violence, teenage mental health crises, and continually rising rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide in the developed world.
The scriptures have these wildly poetic declarations about not fearing even though the mountains should slip into the sea, and the "peace of God which surpasses understanding guarding your heart and mind" and many more. I've come to long for these, not as poetic metaphors, but as some a reality. Aging, retiring from a leadership position that was a source of affirmation and identity, and having close friends die have awakened a hunger in me to finish my life in a state of peace that's not tied to where I live, or the health of my family, or whether I write another book. Knowing that I love my mountain home, my wife, and writing, you'll understand that I'm not surrendering. Rather, I'm looking for a peace that isn't contingent on these things. And that peace is found, I now know, in how I answer the question above.
There's an answer rooted in eternity, in the heart of our Creator. It goes like this:
At the core of my being, I am most fundamentally defined, and most fundamentally define myself as eternally loved by my creator, and brought into this world for the purpose of displaying my Creator's heart through the unique gifts given me, to the end that others will be blessed.
In this paradigm, the starting point is the reality that I'm loved, gifted, and given a purpose to live. My favorite descriptor for this matchless, unconditional, infinite love, is found in John's gospel, which declares, "of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace." Note that it's not something I've earned. It's not even something I need to receive. It's something I have already received as a result of God's pre-emptive love, grace, and gifting.
Two things happen when I live out from this identity as my starting point:
First, I can stop striving, earning, working in hopes of gaining a meaningful life. The seeds of that life are already mine "in Christ." This is the real source of peace, not only for individual human hearts, but for communities, nations, and the planet. When I live out from the reality that I'm "complete in Chrtist," "adopted into an eternal family," "united with Christ," and "filled with the Spirit" the natural response is an increasingly consistent posture of gratitude.
I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me - Psalm 131:2
Second, there'll be an increasingly natural alignment with the things of the spirit. When we live out from any identity other than our truest one, our lives are contingent, and thus subject to the whims of circumstances, other people's opinions, and our own assessment of our 'success and well being'. This plunges us into states of either anxiety, anger, shame and self-loathing, or a sense of powerlessness leading to despair. So we self-medicate to numb these feelings, granting a temporary reprieve from our emotions, but plunging us deeper into our unhealthy state on the far side of our temporary comfort. These self medications are on full display, whether food, sex, alcohol, drugs, binge watching, phone checking, or any of a dozen other escapes.
When Jesus said, "you will know the truth and truth will set you free" he meant "free indeed," which means utterly free from the need to escape into something other than this present moment. We need no longer hide because the resources are ours to meet the moment - everything we need to live the life for which we're created.
Many reading this far will say, "Of course. Tell me something I don't already know." And yet, in spite of our claims to know, we continue to live our from places of fear and insecurity, continue to build solid identities on vaporous foundations, continue to be wracked with fear, anxiety, anger, and more.
Moving from "knowing as assent" to "knowing as experience" happens when truths become internalized, and for many, this requires more than reading, note taking, and talking about faith stuff. It requires meditation.
I'd like to help you learn to meditate on your truest identity and offer several resources here:
For starters me in the practice of meditation here:
Let me know in the comments how it goes, what your barriers to meditation are, or your hesitancies. The world, your world, needs a complete, spirit filled and spirit led version of you. I hope this foundational practice helps you.
I'll be offering a live meditation class on youtube and/or facebook this fall. Please subscribe to this blog in order to be notified