Be present. Just breath. Enjoy today. Be all here. You are enough.
Phrases such as these, along with Mindfulness Coloring Books, have invaded our newsfeeds, as well as our bookstores.
Typically, Christians have one of two responses to the Mindfulness Movement. Either they reject it because of its Eastern roots in other religions or they accept it, saying that Jesus said to be mindful of the flowers of the field and the sparrows.
As Christianity is the capital T Truth, we should expect to see bits of the lowercase t truth in other world religions. Christianity alone will offer the full perspective and will center those bits of truth we may find in other religions in the character of our one true God.
We must do the hard work of running pieces of truths, often exaggerated or truncated, through the sieve of the Truth as seen and revealed in the Scriptures and the Son of the living God.
We have learned to ask three questions of our culture and its trends. What can we accept? What must we reject? What can Christ redeem?
What can we accept?
Mindfulness and its message of being present and living in the now does have some echoes of the words and message of Christ. In a culture overrun with anxiety, which Soren Kierkegaard called “the dizziness of freedom,” people easily become crippled by choices. In the past and in cultures with less access to choice, one’s life was chosen by one’s family or necessity; however, in our culture of choices where choosing a cereal is one of thousands of choices we are privileged to make in one day, it easy to become crippled with anxiety about the future or obsessed with what-ifs regarding the past.
It is no wonder that mindfulness has risen to such popularity with its message of staying in the present.
Christ himself reminded his people the dangers of worrying in the Sermon on the Mount.
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them….Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6: 26 & 34.
Mindfulness exercises, long a part of the monastic traditions, help to add an often neglected aspect to the Christian life. While mainstream practices tend to focus on thinking and doing, mindfulness exercises can bring to Christianity an often-missing sense of being. That being said, mindfulness is currently being espoused in our culture as a sort of religion all its own.
What must we reject?
The problem with the growing tendency to create a faith system out of mindfulness alone is twofold. First, it is only a partial truth exaggerated out into an entire philosophy of life. Second, it tells you to be present without giving you the underlying worldview which enables such peaceful presence. It’s overly simplistic messages do not take into account our elaborately broken world and broken souls. As such, while it sounds compelling and even right, mindfulness, as taught by our culture, cannot deliver what it promises.
Often, those who espouse mindfulness tell us to let go of our concern or fears or needs by detaching from them or repeating phrases to ourselves like, “Be here” or “You are enough.” This sounds helpful, but urges us to ignore the troubles and the truths (our brokenness, our desperate needs, our guilt before God or others) that would lead us to the One lasting peace which is found in the work of Christ.
What can Christ redeem?
The Christian reality of being fully present must be rooted in deep time and in the deeper reality of the character of our knowable and personal God. There are not enough deep breaths and coloring sheets in the world to give me the peace and presence that we need.
The only way for us to fully be present and peaceful in this moment is to know where we come from and where we are headed. Christianity answers both of these questions.
Paul, in seeking to explain to the Ephesians how to live in the situations that made up their present, anchored them in the deeper realities of their past and future.
Even as he chose us in him before the foundation fo the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:4-6.
A tightrope walker holding a balancing rod is able to walk on the tension of the thinnest cable. Mindfulness tells you to stay on the cable, but does not give you a balancing rod or a context for that present moment. Christianity gives us an infinite balancing rod that reaches from before time was wound to the day when the Sun will shine no more. Knowing that we were loved before time began by the Creator God of the universe, knowing that He invaded our present as God Incarnate to deal with the series of schisms between God and man, man and fellow man, man and himself and man creation, knowing that He will set all things right again. These truths balance us in deep time and enable us to be fully present on the thin cable that is our now.
Happy tight rope walking to you, my friend.