As a writer, I know the importance of engaging the physical senses of a reader in order to draw them into the worlds I create; if you can taste, see, smell, touch and hear the world, these windows to the soul conjure an experience of involvement – your brain crosses the threshold between reality and fantasy, and you enter another world.
If you can vividly imagine something, your body will respond as if it were a real experience; for example, imagine the spray of juice as you peel the skin off of a succulent orange, the feel of the wedge as you tear it loose, and the explosion of juicy taste in your mouth as you bite into it. Did you feel the juicy peel on your fingertips? Did your mouth produce more saliva in response? The more your senses are engaged, the more it will feel like a tangible experience, and your mind will remember it on a deeper level. The more we practice, the easier and the more realistic it becomes.
I recently discovered a book called, “O Taste and See – Discovering God through Imaginative Meditations” by Paul W. Meier; in it, he makes the point that we cannot fall in love with an abstract concept; the more concrete we can experience our relationship with Jesus, the more we can fall in love with him, and accept his love for us.
Jesus used imagery in his teaching; he spoke in parables, or made analogies. His stories were often agrarian and culturally relevant, relatable to the audience listening to him. When he talked about the woman searching for a lost coin in Luke 15, it conjured in the listeners’ minds all the associated elements: The sounds of her bustling about in search, the moving around of wooden furniture on a floor of packed earth, the sounds of a broom swishing, the smell of oil in the lighting of the lamp, and the relief and joy when she found that missing part of her dowry; it was worth calling the neighbours together for a party! And with a party comes noise, conversation, perhaps music, and the tastes of food and wine.
The importance of meditating on scripture was driven home to me again recently as I began devotionals with this book; Jesus said repeatedly that to know the Father, you must know himself – that the Creator is revealed through Christ. By taking the time to get comfortable, to let go of what distracts our minds and eyes and take a few deliberate, deep breaths (it’s a technique used in various kinds of meditation – it’s simply a physical cause and effect: As the brain receives oxygen it knows that everything is fine, and it can relax its guard or its vigilance in the instinctual readiness for “flight, freeze or fight”), we can prepare ourselves to receive from God.
I would like to encourage you to read one of the parables or one of the stories about Jesus’ activities, and take the time to sink into it – place yourself in the story as one of the close followers of Jesus (for instance, as John, if you are a man, or as one of the women who travelled with Jesus, if you are a woman). Take time to walk with him, to imagine the sounds of the market, or the lapping of waves on the shore, or the wind in the olive grove or field of grain. Close your eyes and dwell in that place a moment, with Jesus by your side. Go on that journey with him. I can guarantee you that when you do, it will stay in your memory for days, if not much longer, and by experiencing him in such a concrete way, you will begin to love him more, and to sense his love for you all the more.