*If you want to indulge more than just one sense, I suggest listening to Passage by Estebele Words can only say so much, but words + an image + music can say more.
The Holy Spirit of God is all around us. He is everywhere at once. He knows all, He sees all, and is able to do all things. These are among some of the first attributes of God that we learn in Sunday School. Yet they so often seem to be said with an emphasis on the power of God, but not so much on the head-over-heels-in-love-with-us part of God. When scripture declares that the Lord knows the number of hairs on our head, it isn’t about Him trying to prove to us how sovereign He is. He’s sharing how intricately He desires to know us. He actually keeps track of everything about you because He wants to do so. He’s fascinated with us. He is moved by a single glance of our eyes. He is swooned by our songs. He is saying, “abide in me,” not as a sharp command, but with a vehement hunger, a craving, for us to come closer. He longs to be one with us in such a way that it becomes difficult to see where He ends and we begin. He is not arrogantly sitting on a pedestal demanding praise, but rather He is seeking connection and friendship with His sons and daughters. Just as He is home to us, He longs for us to become a Home to Him; to host an inner awareness so deep, that He no longer is a visitor, but a homesteader.
I was sitting by the campfire with my husband, Andrew, a few nights ago as we discussed our desire to host Him unceasingly throughout our day. We both felt the Lord drawing us into a deeper place of abiding where we are so hidden in His Presence that we can’t see the world around us without first peering past His wings that conceal us. I want what I’ve only had in glimpses to overshadow my entire day, my life. The best days I’ve ever had were the ones where I was most aware of Yahweh’s Kingdom and my place beside Him. I didn’t have to be on an exotic retreat, church revival, or even having a day where super great things were happening. Most of these days were quite routine, but when you put on those Rose-Colored Glasses of Beholding, your ordinary will transfigure into the lovestruck hue of extraordinary. Suddenly you become aware of everything—like the ground beneath you, the beauty of the trees, the wonderfulness of humanity-as if you had just meditated for several hours or had suddenly gone from blindness to sight. These glasses of Beholding will cause religious ritual and repetition to fade as you talk to God as if He were your friend in the flesh right next to you. Your conversations with Him become less formal and more friendly, but never less holy. Your decisions will be laced with wind-whispers of the Spirit. People become like family members and conversation is full of honor, life, and awareness. Outwardly, no one may notice much difference, but inwardly, you are full of song and prayer. Your mind and heart are moving at a slower, but more life-giving pace that pumps throughout your whole being. This is the moment-by-moment life of the mature believer. I am far from this conquering my lifestyle, but I am on the path. Perhaps to some this sounds like a wishful sort of living, but the glimpses promise me that this can become so natural that it is not even second nature anymore, but first nature. Let us choose to practice the presence until we become like the very One we are hosting and the things on earth become “strangely dim” all around us.
It can be difficult to be present in the fast-paced, technology-central, microwave world of America. After all, we have lived our whole lives more aware of the world around us rather than the World this world is inside. I speak of the World of the Spirit: the Kingdom of God. It is hidden in the wrinkles of the Spirit realm, but it reveals itself to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. There are many keys that help us to remain in that moment-by-moment reality with God: praying in the Spirit, singing songs, meditation, podcasts, reading, beginning the day with prayer, declaration, fasting, community, and keeping in obedience to the still small voice. But there is one key in particular that I feel, above all others, I personally have the authority and permission to share: beholding Christ through sacred imagination.
Extreme religion has cringed at the idea of imagination being a pathway into the greater things of God, but that is only because it is a word that has been wrongly tarnished. Religion taught us that to imagine is to be in witchcraft, but imagination is actually a portal. Imagination is not New Age. To see in the spirit is not reserved to psychics and buddhists, but rather the entirety of the Bible is filled with men and women who saw visions and dreamed dreams. It is of my opinion that all believers were meant to not just enter into the Kingdom of God, but to actually be of the Kingdom. You can live in a kingdom without partaking of it. You can clean it. You can walk around in it. You can preach on it. You can serve in it. But we’re meant to inherit it, explore it, touch it, experience it…not just enter in and then close our eyes and sing songs until we get to Heaven. One only knows the ways and deeds of God, but the other know His character and His personality. (Psalm 107:3)
If we were born once and then born again into a whole new world of the Spirit, then just like there’s a whole world of the earth to explore there is also a whole world of the Spirit to explore. Both births came with blood and water, but one World is Superior to the other, and it is the Realm that is eternal. If we could all see the kingdom with our natural eyes we would have no need for faith, the evidence of the unseen. But when we became born again into this new world we also received a new set of eyes. These eyes are upon our hearts, not our minds. (ephesians 1:18). Though our hearts were born with evil imaginations and intents, He has given us a resurrection into new life and NEW hearts (ezekiel 36:26). Now, through His word, our minds and imaginations have been sanctified into a vessel for His glory. And because the imagination of God is seated in the heart, not the mind, it can, therefore, flow in a place that defies logic and sense. It is then we can behold what no eye has seen. Where knowledge has affected our minds, may holy imagination, the beholding of God, will affect our spirits. His Kingdom is the world we are to fix our eyes on. (2 cor. 4:18) This is the world that lives within and around us if only we’d open the eyes of our heart.
I do believe that the world of the Spirit seen through the eyes of imagination demands a certain type of integrity. But we can no longer be afraid of imagination in the church if we are to go where Yahweh is taking us. Imagination does not mean to “conjure” something up with self-wrought fantasies. Sacred imagination is simply a pathway to practicing presence by beholding Yahweh. Our minds were created with the faculties to form mental images, concepts, and ideas that are not yet in our physical world. This is on purpose. In fact, when we pray, we are imagining a different outcome. When we give thanks, we picture what we are thankful for. You’re also using (rather, abusing) your imagination when you worry, lust, or are filled with anger. But to behold God in everyday life is to go deeper than just created images; it is to posture our hearts with such adoration towards God, that what we see begins to align with a Superior Reality. Matt Petry, a man I consider more wise than Gandalf, once said, “When you aim at Jesus, you can’t miss.”
There are many ways to see into the Spirit, but not all are lawful and good. To do so by any other doorway apart from Jesus, the Christ, is to to be entering into a pen of sheep as a wolf. But if your heart is set on Christ more than an encounter, His Presence more than experience, and to bring Him adoration more than to create a resume of self-achievement, then you have no need for fear. What He speaks may be unfathomable at times, but it will always hold purpose. What He shows you may sometimes stretch your comfort, but will always come with peace. He may sometimes challenge your interpretation, but He will never go against what He has already spoke in scripture. He is the good Shepherd and His sheep know His voice. When you remain with the Shepherd, you can begin to trust your ears and eyes.
God. This vast, unsearchable, unending, powerful, omniscient, otherworldly Being, wants to be with us moment-by-moment. He wants a secret-keeper and friend, not just a servant and church-goer. I sometimes will practice seeing into the Kingdom by imagining Him right next to me. He always invades my world, but as His friend, I think it is only good and right that I also go to His. I usually will see Him as I pictured He might have like on earth. His hands are rough carpenter hands. His hair dark. His eyes seem like they have fire alive in them. Sometimes I see a Gardener. Sometimes I see Him as a great Lion like Lucy did in Narnia. Sometimes He’s a great many things, depending on what He may be speaking—He does like parables and analogies an awful lot, you know. My husband shared how he will often imagine Christ in the form of a man, but completely translucent and full of sparks of light like stars and colors like rainbows…but even more beautiful and good. This is not to conjure Christ into the image you wish Him to take, but to lift up your eyes as one may lift up sails to catch wind. It is to tune in to the signal of the Kingdom. It is to posture yourself to see into the Unseen Realm. From there, He has freedom to paint. You’ll begin to not just hear His voice, but see the lips moving that speak them. You’ll be able to see the expressions on His face when He shares something. You’ll begin to hear the tone in His voice. All these things change the way you receive what someone is saying—and it can change everything. To actually know Christ is the aim, to be near Him is the goal. To behold Him is our greatest inheritance.
Joan of Arc was a woman that led France into victory several centuries ago. Her strategy? She said she heard voices and saw visions from God. The people would call her a witch, heretic, and lunatic. It is recorded that, during her trial for heresy, that the inquisitor accusingly said, “You say God speaks to you, but it’s only your imagination.” Joan’s response was, “How else would God speak to me, if not through my imagination?” I love that. This sacred imagination will only further your ability to host God’s presence throughout the day. It will lead to victories and fruitfulness. What if this beholding, this open eyes to imagination, is what it means to walk by the Spirit and not by flesh, by faith and not by sight? Was this not what Jesus was doing when He only did what He SAW the Father doing? To be more aware is to be more alive. To usher His Presence into the little things, is to honor His laws above the laws of man. Yes, maybe holy imagination, the beholding of Christ, really is that necessary to our inheritance of more of this Kingdom we call home.
How does God speak to you throughout the day? Does imagination play a role in how you interact with God? Do you picture Christ when you worship, pray, or meditate on Him? What does hosting His presence moment-by-moment look like for you? What blurs the line between “normal life” and “sacred life”? Join the conversation and comment below!
Lord, You are the Creator of imagination and conversation. I just see You right now commissioning one of your light-beings, one of your angels of Heaven, to bring a clearer vision to those who have hearts to receive. I see this angel taking the smallest of eyedroppers, filling it with the crystal waters from Your sea like glass, and bringing it down to Your people. May those who wish to inherit more of Your Kingdom, open wide their eye-gates and be filled with greater sight, no matter what level they are already currently seeing You. May our spirit eyes open up wide in wonder and adoration as we behold you. I pray that we would live as if we have on rose colored glasses, seeing all through the filter of You. I pray that as we practice seeing Christ beside us that it will mature into us within Christ and Christ within us. Overwhelm all five of our senses with the reality of Your world. May we not fear imagination, but learn to operate in Your Kingdom by the wind of Your Holy Spirit, with sound minds, and the guidance of peace. I pray for the unseen dimension to begin to overlay what we call the seen until Your Reality usurps the reality of the world around us. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Amen.