The sun peeks over the distant horizon as if scoping out the land of the ensuing day, its progressive rays set rooftops ablaze. The brilliant glow of orange contrasts long, dark shadows. Pillars of smoke rise towards heaven throughout the hodgepodge city. The cold ground seems to absorb any stirring movement in the quiet ghost town. A lady sits, alone in her house but together in her task with other women throughout the city – preparing the food that will sustain her family for the day. The fire she is cooking on warms the stale, stagnate air of the home. Vivid light from the east and the scent of freshly baked bread mingles to cast a promising a perfume on the day.
However, on this particular morning her mind is racing past the mundane task of daily bread. Her hands follow rhythmic muscle memory, learned over the years, but her mind holds the past and reaches into the future. Her heritage, born to a Levite and married to a Levite, cannot escape her meditation. The blood that courses through her veins is filled with divine purpose and destiny; that blood is daily soaked into the soil of a vain dream. The vivid memory of the crack of a taskmaster's whip snaps her out of the past and into the present. She bows her head and lifts her prayer. Words bypass the column of smoke that rises from her home and are ushered into the throne room of heaven. It’s a prayer for a deliverer from the harsh hand of Pharaoh. The little prayer skipped the mound of prayers centuries old and rested right on top.
The cow has an interesting method of eating, to say the least. No doubt many of us are familiar with the process of rumination. In short, there is a particular group of mammals that digests food into their rumen. The rumen, being the first stomach, is where food is stored and slowly broken down until it is eventually recalled back up to the mouth to be chewed on once again. After which, the cud then ventures back down the esophagus one last time. While I commend the cow and deer for their persistence in the digestive process, I tend to find my place in the camp that argues a meal, no matter how good, really should only be swallowed once.
However, when it comes to the mind, especially to the process of teaching and learning, I find myself in agreement with the praxis of the cow. As a teacher at heart, and a learner by nature, I find myself returning to books, thoughts, ideas, and notes often. Typically, I will have originally assimilated these days, weeks, perhaps even months or years prior. Some ideas are meant for quick consumption, but there are those others that seem to ruminate for a while. Maybe you’re familiar with perplex worldview questions like: what is the meaning and purpose of my life? The question is one that tends to be chewed on for years before we can finally come to some inkling of its answer. Learning truly is the process of mental rumination.
The point here connects in many ways to the overarching scheme of our lives. Much like the example given in the previous paragraph, many of the major decisions we make in life are not made in a split moment. We ruminate for a while on decisions on topics such as: marriage, career, meaning and purpose, life goals, and belief system. Hopefully, you don’t believe that the Bible is true just because someone else told you it was. I certainly hope that your understanding of salvation and your relationship with God is derived from personal revelation. Hopefully, these are topics you have ruminated on and have come to a conclusion for yourself. Think about your thinking. What do you think about often? Paul tells us, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). Can we honestly say we follow Paul’s teaching here? Thinking is important because we see in life that the biggest choices are often the one’s that require the most mental effort.
A simple example of this would be that when deciding between Indian or Japanese for dinner I can pretty much close my eyes and be happy either way (two of my favorite foods). The choice will pretty much have zero impact on who I am two or three years from now. Odds are I won’t even remember the meal two or three years from now. However, if I implemented the same process into my choice for a spouse or future in ministry, well… there will be some consequences. Major decisions require time and effort — mental rumination.
One of the worst feelings is that of when you are right in the middle of a test, and you come across a question that you know the answer to, but can’t seem to put your finger on it. The answer is so clear but just so elusive. (I’ll save you the discussion on memory and the psychological reasoning for this occurrence.) The feeling awakens an understanding though that there are ideas, memories, and goals locked inside of us that we can’t seem to find the keys to unlock.
At the beginning of our discussion, we talked about a lady who prayed a prayer for a deliverer. The lady was Jochebed, mother of Moses. I picture a morning where she sat, pregnant, praying for a deliverer to save her from the tyranny of her people. Her situation looked dim, to say the least, but she continued, not knowing the promise she was carrying. She was literally carrying the key to unlock her prayer. All the while she continued to pray continued to hope.
The story of Jochebed is a vivid representation of really where each of us finds ourselves sometimes in life. We have goals, dreams, and aspirations. No doubt we pray about our future and ask that God’s will would be done. We have faith that at the end of the day these pursuits will be seized. But sometimes we forget about the promises that we carry, the potential we store. In all of our mental rumination regarding the tasks and struggles in life we, like Jochebed, somehow are oblivious to the reality of the answer that lies within. Sometimes in life we scour the Scriptures and entreat the throne; all the while God sits, waiting for you to realize you're looking for yourself. It’s kind of like running around the house looking for your glasses only to realize they have been on your face the entire time.
The word of God is a light (Psalm 119:105) use that light for some introspective illumination. Recall old dreams and buried memories. You never know what you mind find.
So I ask you today: what have you been ruminating on lately and what potential is locked inside of you, just waiting to get out?