Within the past twenty-four hours, I have had the best and worst session of meditation so far. The one last evening was amazing. I settled right into it and felt this warmth subside around my body as if I was being cradled in warm ocean water. I was able to focus on my breathing while letting an entire movie of thoughts unfold without interruption on the screen of my breath. I wonder if I have worked through most of my stress by evening, so I am more able to calm my thoughts and focus on my breathing.
This morning was an entirely different story. I was unable to still my mind at all. There was no silence coming forward until a couple of minutes before the tones interrupted my mediation. I was bogged down in all the chaos that I hadn’t processed the night before, so I couldn’t relax. When I did, though, it was very deep and intense and I saw bright lights at the edges of my periphery and I wanted to follow them. I centered on my breathing and the lights danced around in a calming rhythm. I am not sure if any of this is supposed to happen when you meditate, but it happens to me. And I love it.
Last night I attended the Muncie Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration at Christ Temple. Talk about having church! I had forgotten how much I love that style of Christian celebration, and I think I may have been inspired to write my paper for African-American literature on the use of sermon in the slave narrative. Basically, this qualifies with one of the best worship experiences I have had in a while. Don’t get me wrong, I love my church and its worship team, but there is a certain lack of restraint when it comes to praising Jesus that is present in the Black community that isn’t present in our lily-white one. I think I mean that once a people group has been persecuted, there is more to live for, more to praise for, and less to hold back from. There is an unabashed love of Jesus that is unique to the Black community. Like one of the choir directors said: “The devil nearly took my life, he tried to take my mind, he came for my husband and my kids!” And the choir answered: “Take back!” I think I want to say that even when the devil comes to steal, we can take it back and not have our joy stolen from us in the process.
I worry about the stuff with my grandma, but I am not about to have my joy stolen by worry. I know that as a family, and with God’s help, we will make it through! God didn’t bring us this far in order to drop us off by the side of the road. Take back!
I guess I should clarify my statement yesterday about not believing in hell, since I wrote a lot about the devil today. I don’t believe that hell is a place that immortal souls are cast in order to make them suffer for eternity for sins they committed on earth. I think of it more as Sheol, where we go to rest until Christ returns. I do believe there is an adversary, Satan, who is real and present throughout Scripture, but I don’t think his job is to torture us with hellfire and damnation for all of eternity. I believe in grace. As a colleague of mine said the other night: It doesn’t even make sense. Why would the guy who hates Jesus torture you for eternity for also turning away from Jesus? So essentially, we are to believe that the Devil tortures the people who are on his side? Seems a little like nonsense.
I think he has a very excellent point. I think of the Devil as more of real-live presence who is our adversary in daily life, who pursues us in order to cloud our correct judgment. This Adversary is what makes us do things like bomb innocent people, keep money that we could give to the poor, make decisions that screw little old ladies who worked hard all their lives. The Adversary is the impetus behind our ill treatment of each other and our constant desire to outdo each other. So, while I don’t believe in hell in the sense that I am afraid I might one day go there for eternity, I do believe that Satan is real and scary and at work. Think of it as the feeling you get when you say you have the willies or the heeby-jeebies or something. You know that slimy, cold feeling you can’t shake.