Cutting across all of the above areas is the need to be invested in our own growth, to trust God’s grace at work in us, and foster our active connection to God. This includes specifically devotional practices such as prayer and Bible study.
Hannah was a good student and loved stretching herself with challenging courses, but this also meant that she had to learn to manage her time well as well as learn to manage the stress of her coursework. In her church youth group, she learned about the practices of Christian meditation and Christian forms of mindfulness – being attentive to one’s feelings and physical body. Typically, mindfulness is about becoming conscious of one’s body and feelings – noting where there might be stress or tension. She learned that a Christian form of mindfulness can turn that awareness into prayers. She began to practice Christian meditation and mindfulness and found it helpful as she found ways to manage her stress. One day, as she was studying for her Anatomy and Physiology class, it dawned on her that she could review for the test while practicing Christian mindfulness. With her feet planted firmly on the ground, back straight, and hands resting on her thighs, she began to breathe deeply and slowly paying attention to her breaths. As she did, she silently called to mind the various workings of her lung and prayed a simple meditative prayer: “God I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” She then proceeded to slowly work her way through her body, beginning with her feet and working her way up. All the while she slowly called to mind the scientific names for the various bones and tendons, etc. After each bodily section, she quietly prayed: “God I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
A class of students had been discussing the nature of Christian community, and how it is different from a friendship group or a neighborhood. Christian community calls us to live in fellowship with others who belong to Christ whether or not they are the kind of people we like to hang out with and whether or not they are part of our cultural group. At the end of the class, the teacher asked the students to each choose a person whom they would see several times during the week. It could be someone in their classes, someone they saw around school, or someone in their neighborhood. If possible, they were to choose a person whom they did not particularly like or would not choose to spend time with. Each time they saw that person for the next week, they were to pause inwardly to reflect that the other was called and accepted by Christ and to express thanks for their life. After a week of this, Joe found that the practice was changing him. He wrote in his journal entry:
There’s a student with whom I’m not on friendly terms. We don’t fight, but when we are together, it can be a bit awkward. Over the course of the last few days I’ve prayed for this student. The more I prayed for him, the more I found I could stand him. Now I don’t find it a problem seeing him around campus. We are not best friends, but I believe that things have improved between us.