I am guilty. I didn’t know I was guilty until I stopped long enough to consider it and then it hit me. Yeah…I’m guilty. Of course, if I’d considered it earlier, I would have understood the depth of my guilt, but as it is, I was too busy to get it. I get it now. I’m too busy. That’s it.
I don’t think I’m the only one who is guilty. You’re probably guilty, too. Of course, you are taking the time to read this, though that can be just another sign that you’re guilty. I guess it depends, doesn’t it?
There used to be a great exercise…a discipline, really, that great men and women used to engage in long ago. Some still consider it a necessity, but on most, it is a lost art form; a craft long since abandoned as we have bowed to the ever-powerful god of the full schedule. That great lost comodity is the ability and the practice of Thought. Deep thought…extensive thought…meaningful thought.
Why have we given up on thinking? Well, first, one might say that we haven’t; we think all the time. If we didn’t think, we wouldn’t function. True on the most shallow level of thought. Real thinking, though, is taking time to consider, to contemplate, to roll things through our mind undisturbed by the outer world until we come to a conclusion. It is considering the state of the world, the state of our souls or the state of Man. It is wrestling with a problem until a solution is reached. It is asking the greater and deeper questions about life and God and the human condition and staying with it until there has been progress made towards understanding (even if we never fully get it). That is “Thinking,” and to answer my earlier question, we have given up on it for at least three reasons: we’re too busy, it takes work, and it’s unproductive.
Now, I’m not going to tackle the first two in-depth for the sake of space, but I will a little on the last one because it goes to the state of our minds and, for lacking of a better word, our thinking. I’ll talk about it in the first person, because I am the one here who is guilty…not you (?).
I get so busy (sometimes for busynesses sake) with life and ministry and all of the other stuff in life that I fail to build in time to just think. I always have to have noise. There needs to be something going on. I feel as though if I’m not doing something, I am being unproductive. I need to produce something…results! We are a results-driven culture and if we do not produce those results, we have wasted time…been un-productive, the greatest sin of all in our society.
I counter that thinking first pragmatically. Quite simply, great thoughts produce great ideas, which in turn, produce great results. Without great thoughts there will be bad ideas, and substandard results. Perhaps there would be better production if we valued “think-time” enough to actually build it into our schedule!
Secondly, on a more holistic level, we become better people when we value the time of contemplation. Constant noise leads to inner chaos and emaciated souls. When we fail to cultivate the mind, we are shallow, weak-minded and under-developed. The great leaders throughout history have always been great thinkers…men and women who valued the inner life and actively shut out the noise of the world to consider the drama being played out in their own souls.
These are things that I know; I understand deeply. Yet I’m guilty. I know that I will be a better husband, father, pastor…person if I will simply but intentionally build in time every day…every single day for contemplation. On some days, it needs to be extensive. On other days, it may just be ten minutes (and I’m talking here about in addition to any devotional time). This is not a waste of time if I am truly contemplating life; if I’m asking tough questions about myself or the world at large; about life and relationship and suffering and solutions. Great thoughts lead to great solutions, and I want to be a “solver.” I want to be a great leader. Maybe I will be or maybe I won’t be, but I bet the answer to that question is certain if I fail to be a Thinker!