Free Your Imagination with Imaginative Contemplation
When Jesus says he’s coming over to your house, you’d better say “Yes!”
Unlike me, when he said he was coming over, I said, “Not right now, it’s too messy.”
That’s real, right? Both figuratively (my internal heart/house) and literally (my for real house) was a mess.
Last week we talked about having confidence that if you belong to Jesus, then you can hear his voice. Check it out here if you need a refresh. This week, we are moving into a topic that has had the greatest impact on my ability to listen for and hear God’s voice. That’s imaginative contemplation. We’ve got to start with what imaginative contemplation is in order to understand my messy house illustration.
What in the world is imaginative contemplation?
Here’s the super short back story. Saint Ignatius of Loyola founded a religious order in the Catholic Church in the 1500s called the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits. In his life, Ignatius devoted himself to ministry and the practice of seeking Jesus. He created spiritual exercises that draw people into deeper connection with Jesus. There are whole books published on these disciplines. One book with practical help and explanations for each exercise is, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Calhun.
The practice of imaginative contemplation involves spending time in a story or scene, often from the Gospels in the Bible. As the passage is read aloud, or as you meditate on the scripture scene, you allow the Lord to guide you, speak to you, and highlight things you missed in past readings.
Use your imagination and senses to allow yourself to picture the scene as if you are there with Jesus.
If it sounds simple, it is! But as I stated before it can change everything about how you listen for God’s voice. If you want a little more information, check out this post from Ignatian Contemplation.
My Experience at Mary and Martha’s House
Everything changed for me when I started engaging my imagination with the Lord in prayer and scripture reading.
Since the spirit lives in us, he can use everything we have, including our imaginations to guide us into his presence. My favorite, and most powerful experience was imagining what it was like to sit at Jesus’ feet in the home of Mary and Martha, found in Luke 10:38-42. I used the exercise from the app Pray As You Go, and they also offer the exercises on audio online. The audio versions are great because they guide you through the scene, giving you time to experience it at your own pace.
Now we get back to the part of the story where Jesus asks to come over to my house. I was in the midst of thinking about how I was tucked behind the couch, sneakily watching the disciples and Mary at Jesus’ feet, when Jesus got up and walked toward me. He started leading me out the back door and told me that we were going next door to my house.
Instantly, I had a picture in my mind’s eye of the dusty mess, the pictures hanging crooked on the walls, boxes unpacked, things covering the floor. Of course we couldn’t go there! Well, Jesus has a mind of his own, don’t you know, and he came over anyway.
Then, best of all, he sat down, criss-cross-applesause, right in the middle of my messy front room. And he invited me to sit down facing him, knee-to-knee, face-to-face.
Jesus isn’t afraid of our mess!
Let me rephrase that. Jesus isn’t afraid of your mess! He clears a path and sits down right smack dab in the middle. He tells us, as he told me once-upon-a-time, that he will help us unpack, but for now he is content to spend time with us, seemingly unconcerned with the dirty laundry and cat hair on the carpet. Because he only has eyes for us. Sweet, Jesus!
He only has eyes for you, dear one. Leave the mess. Invite Jesus in.
Just promise me you will try an imaginative contemplation. Try that specific one! To say that this experience with the Lord changed me is no understatement. It became the beginning of the end of a period in my life that felt stagnant and desperately tangled and lonely. Turns out, I didn’t need to hide from Jesus in the back of the room at Mary and Martha’s, he was coming to MY house to spend time with me! Brings me to my knees every time.
Please join me next week for part three of Hearing God’s Voice, as we talk about the power of scripture. Don’t worry, you can start reading the Bible in tiny bite-sized chunks that leave you hungry for more. I’m going to share my favorite plan that did that for me!
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