Learning to be a better contemplative in action
On Wednesday afternoon, Michelle Sanchez teaches a workshop on discerning the presence and will of God. | Olivia Blinn/THE CHIMES
After hearing Michelle Sanchez speak twice — once during yesterday’s workshop and again today in the morning session — I was skeptical of what more wisdom she would offer to me this afternoon. She ended up speaking mostly about a term I have never heard of: contemplative in action.
“A Christian contemplative, at the root of it, is just someone who sees God,” Sanchez said. She explained how a contemplative in action is a person who is deeply involved in God’s action. These people aren’t constantly busy, however, but rather grounded in a quiet place. Their activity flows from that quiet foundation.
As a person who constantly wants to be involved in everything, I don’t necessarily want to accept that quietness. When I came to Biola, I was ready to get involved in 10 different clubs and ministries. After careful prayer and prodding from the Holy Spirit, I decided to enter a time of rest. Although totally contradictory to my nature, I knew how important it was that I make time for God before making time for everything else that I wanted to do.
Coming to Biola has really helped form me into something I didn’t even have a term for until now — a contemplative in action. Sanchez pointed out how Christ is a perfect example of what a contemplative in action looks like, as well as giving her listeners four steps to becoming a better contemplative in action:
Relate: Sanchez told us that when relating to Christ, we have to realize that God wants intimate communion with us. She said we must stand on God’s love and “allow it to sink down in our hearts so that it ... makes us fearless for God’s mission.”
Contemplate: As far as contemplation goes, we should open our hearts and pay attention to how God is working in our lives. “Christ is in all. We just need to notice,” Sanchez said. Sanchez had mentioned this in one of her earlier sessions, but its truth stuck with me this time. God is doing amazing things all around me every day. We don’t have to look very far to see an example of his glory in our lives or our friends’ lives.
A big time of contemplation occurred for Sanchez on September 11, 2001. After the airplanes crashed into the Twin Towers and she was forced to evacuate her office at a prestigious bank job, she remembers running home across the Brooklyn Bridge, seeing New York City in flames behind her.
She told us that she thought about death. “If I had to stand before God at this moment,” she wondered, “would I be ready?” After realizing she wouldn’t be ready, she found herself looking to find another job.
Participate: In the participation step, we are called to work on Christ’s terms and “participate with Christ who does his work in us.” In Sanchez’s life, this participation came through quitting her bank job to work for Cru at New York University. Although people thought she was crazy, she started a Christian ministry for international students.
Celebrate: This led Sanchez into her last step, celebration. She emphasized how we should “rejoice in the Lord and give thanks for all the wonderful things we see him do in us.” This includes rejoicing and giving thanks in the times when we’re unsure or disappointed. When Sanchez started the international ministry, she found herself celebrating when a Taiwanese girl named Mary was baptized after going back to Taiwan.
Sanchez ended with a largely unnoticed truth: “There’s a world of difference between being productive and being fruitful.” That’s one statement I will definitely take to heart as I discern which things to get involved with at Biola and in my life after college. Thanks to Michelle Sanchez’s session, I know that if I continue to abide in Christ, I can and will become a much better contemplative in action.