I’ve lived in semi-rural areas most of my life so it’s not unusual to drive past fields full of dairy cattle. Most of the time, they are standing there either eating the green grass or methodically chewing their cud.
It makes perfect sense for them because it’s the way God designed their digestive system. They eat and swallow partially chewed grasses, then completely chew their food a second time, slowly as if they haven’t a care in the world. There is a word for this activity – to ruminate.
It almost makes me wonder what they’re thinking about as they stand there, dreamily staring into space and ruminating over their food?
But ruminating cows are one thing. When the word is applied to people, there is a completely different meaning. Ruminate: to reflect or to rehash thoughts or events in the mind repeatedly and often purposely.
Have you ever found yourself going over something that happened repeatedly in your mind? It may not be so bad to ruminate over something, but often those ruminations can lead to anxiety or even hurtful behaviors against others as people begin to imagine how they will act when those events occur.
The rumination process looks something like this: We remember an event, usually it’s something that hurt us. Then we analyze it – what was done to us, how we acted or what we said. Because it really bothers us, we think about it often, reliving the details.
Then, because we are problem solvers, we begin to take time to consider each little thing, going over and over it in our imaginations. We replay different scenarios about what we will do or say if it happens again. And we imagine the outcome of what we do or say as well as how it will make us feel to do or say those things.
As we ruminate, we begin to understand what needs to be done and we plan a course of action. Finally we act on those plans.
God knows we will most likely ruminate about something at some point in our lives. These anxious thoughts can lead to hurtful actions toward ourselves or others. It’s important that we saturate our minds with God’s Word so our ruminations will lead us to consider his ways and his solutions to the problems and hurts of life, rather than our own.
When we find ourselves rehashing some event or words that hurt us, it’s important to stop early in the process and allow God to intervene. The longer we ruminate without his intervention, the greater the chance that we will hurt others with our words or deeds in the end.
The sooner we ask him if our musings offend him; the sooner we give him the opportunity to redirect our thoughts so that our actions will be positive and pleasing to him – the sooner we will find the ability to forgive and experience peace.