As I lay down on my bed, breathed deeply, closed my eyes and I saw my Father as I remember him best walk towards me, it felt good and it felt real.
As I imagined him embracing me and telling me that it was alright and I was free to not be afraid anymore, it felt good and it felt real.
Then as he left and I was alone, I saw the 11 year old version of me as I remember best (no, those corduroy trousers did not look cool) approach me. I embraced me, comforted me and I told young me what my Father had just told grown up me (you keeping up?) therefore releasing 11 year old me from the pain that I had held onto for far too long and
…it felt good and it felt real.
Of course none of it actually happened.
It was all in my mind and it was all a product of my imagination.
But the way I looked back then, the way my father was dressed, his hair, his voice, his mannerisms, my childhood living room; they were all as real as I could ever imagine.
It didn’t happen but in some way that I can’t explain, it did.
I’ve been meditating for a couple of weeks on an almost daily basis and part of that process is not just being silent and breathing deeply, but listening to what my mind is trying to tell me. Letting the Spirit move my thoughts in directions that are uncomfortable, hard to face yet healing all at once.
When it comes to spiritual disciplines we’re all pretty clued into reading the Bible, praying, church and worship. Yeah, at times it may not come easy and it can feel like we are banging our heads against a brick wall, but we’ve all had the importance of them drilled into us. Whether we do them or not.
But how often when engaging with these things do we let the Holy Spirit guide us?
Is that why these things that are designed to provide life, restoration and community often leave us feeling cold and empty?
When we read the Bible we ‘need’ good, solid, theological commentaries that will drive us to the ‘real’ truth.
When we pray we talk constantly, only taking a breath to “mmm” once in a while.
When we worship we are forced to take a posture of standing, singing songs all about my relationship with God, thereby forcing us to looking like we are really connected, when all this week has been telling us is that God is absent.
When we walk into church, we dress up, we don’t swear and we feel obliged to make small talk that never gets into the deep conversations that allow others to really know us.
Maybe this all seems a bit too cynical for you. That’s ok though because I’d rather be cynical and honest, than upbeat and lying to your face.
But really this is not cynical at all. This is about opening up those ways we generally use to experience God, to new and wonderful ways of hearing His voice in our lives. This is about shutting the hell up every now and then, so we can actually be tuned into what is really going on.
What if through silence and the way that we use our imaginations, God is trying to speak to us through the Holy Spirit, just as much as he is our weekly Bible study?
And one of the ways that I think the Holy Spirit accomplishes this is through our imaginations.
I know for some reading this, you will be cautious. You will have heard stories of people letting things in that are dangerous because they have tried to tap into some sort of truth other than the what the Bible says. I know for some you will see this as a way for people to claim truth that goes against what you believe about God, and you think that is dangerous.
And maybe sometimes it is. But is it anymore dangerous than all the times that we’ve interpreted things in the Bible and used them as justification to persecute somebody or to use violence against a country or to see ourselves as more ‘blessed’ than others?
I am under no doubt that the experiences that I have had recently with meditation and the way that the Holy Spirit has been guiding my imagination are from God.
How do I know?
Because they have led to me facing pain in my life, they have led me to a healing that has taken me over 20 years to even begin and they have given me life. It’s about bringing me to a point that is more “No surface, all feeling” (thanks Manics). It’s about beginning to trust the Holy Spirit that when we say God has saved us, He means all of us, including our imaginations.
These experiences are from God because they’ve given me freedom.
So what if…
when reading the Bible, instead of only using commentaries we practiced praying over certain words, letting the Spirit through our imagination guide us into deeper levels of understanding that creates peace in our lives.
when praying, sometimes using long periods of silence and short mantras to help us block out noise enough for God to actually get a word in, in ways we could never hear otherwise.
when we worship, we provide spaces to be real, for those who don’t want to sing “Blessed Be Your Name” again and again.
and when we think of church, it’s less about the structures shaping how we live together, and more about allowing the Holy Spirit to speak imaginatively into how we live together, that determines our structures.
In a world where words we’ve heard preached millions of times have lost their true power, when communicating with God has become frustrating because we simply don’t know how to be still and listen and where the pain that we’re not even aware of is allowed to grow because what we ‘know’ about God is determined by theoretical ideas and structures,
we need to hear the Holy Spirit speak more than ever.
Sometimes that means opening up our minds.
And if the Holy Spirit can move and penetrate our imaginations,
Imagine how amazing that would be.