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What is your favorite story? What do you love about it? How do you talk about it with others?
I love stories. I relish in the opportunity to get lost in a new world with fantastical creatures and unfamiliar ways of life. I readily immerse myself in stories of adventure and eagerly take on the joys and sorrows of the characters I’m reading about.
The gift of a good story is a gift that God shares with us through His word. It’s one long story made up of many smaller stories, each of which is full to the brim with nuggets of wisdom God has given us to teach us more about Him.
The Bible is rich with all the elements that I absolutely love in my favorite novels: there is adventure, fantastically complex characters, curiosity and wonder, and so much depth that there is always something new to discover. When we can approach the text of God’s word using the full range of our imaginations, we can begin to see that it is dynamic and alive, bursting with mysteries for us to explore.
Ignatian Sensory Reading, sometimes called Sacred Imagination, Imaginative Contemplation, or the Application of the Senses, is a style of reading the Bible that can help us enter into that imaginative, experiential approach to the text. This practice comes from St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), founder of the Jesuit order within Catholicism, who developed it for reading the Gospels.
The Ignatian method invites the reader to enter into the text as if she or he is experiencing it, not just reading it. It prompts us to read while engaging all five senses. As we imagine ourselves entering the text, we can observe the scene around us and take note of what we see, hear, feel, taste, and smell. We immerse ourselves in the narrative, make the text come to life, and seek to understand the text from a new perspective. Reading the Bible in this way can reveal truths or lessons we may have missed upon other readings; when we apply it to the Gospels, it can allow us to connect with Jesus in a new way.
You can pick any passage you want, Old or New Testament. For today, consider a passage from the end of Jesus’s life, in honor of Good Friday. Here are some suggestions:
Ideally, use your bible app or other technology to have the passage read aloud, so you can close your eyes and take it all in. If you can’t do that, you can read it yourself. Either will work. Before you read or listen, ask the Holy Spirit to be present and to guide you. As you read or listen, imagine yourself into the passage. Try to picture the scene around you.
As you look around you, take note of what you see, hear, smell, taste, or feel.
How do you feel?
What do you notice around you?
What piques your interest or sparks your curiosity?
Do you find yourself taking on the thoughts, feelings, and perspectives of one of the characters, or are you a fly on the wall, watching it all happen?
Read the passage a few times if you need to, and try not to analyze what you see. Just observe and experience.
When you finish reading the passage, take time to reflect upon what you observed and experienced. What questions do you have? What new truths emerged? What did you glean from this passage that you may have missed upon previous readings? What did you learn about Jesus?
Bring these reflections, observations, questions, and experiences to God in prayer. Listen to hear what He has to say. What can you learn about God from this passage of scripture? How can you live more closely aligned with Him?
This is a great practice to engage in as a group, so consider sharing this experience with your small group. You’ll likely each experience the passage in a unique way, and then have the gift of learning from one another as you share what you observed.
Or, when you’re finished reading, reflecting, and praying, call a friend to tell them what you experienced. Send me an email ( ) and let me know what you learned!
I pray that as you allow your imagination to roam free through the many chapters of the Bible, this ancient text will come to life in new and beautiful ways.