These are dark and strange times indeed. In the UK, like in many parts of the world, we are now in a stage of almost total lock down in attempts to limit the spread of Covid-19. There is fear, massive uncertainty, and grave concern about the health of loved ones and the catastrophic financial impact of social distancing and mass closures. But emerging from the ashes of the world we used to live in are many stories of human kindness, thoughtfulness, inventiveness and generosity.
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And what strikes me most about this season – this surreal ‘new normal’ we find ourselves in, albeit temporarily – is the opportunity it presents for some intentional time with God and with our souls. If you work in the health or emergency service, communications, the food supply chain, you are probably busier and more stretched than you have ever been. We salute you and express heartfelt gratitude for all that you are doing. If like many of the rest of us, you find yourself working at home and with most of normal life suspended, chances are you have more time than usual.
What an extraordinary opportunity to do some serious business with God!
What is God’s invitation to you in this time? If you are to come through this season well having honoured God and been true to who He made you to be, what would that mean? What would you be doing more or? Less of? Who is He inviting you to be to those around you?
Why not take some time each day to seek answers to these questions using a tool for reading Scripture called Lectio Divina. Lectio Divina is a wonderful ancient form of spiritual reading that reaches back to the Jewish tradition of meditation as it says in Psalm 1:1-2;
“Blessed is the one….whose delight is in the law of the Lord, who meditates on His law day and night.”
It’s practice in the Christian church was refined by St Benedict in the 6th Century and referred to from then as Lectio Divina – divine reading. In our busy technology-fueled world, it is as relevant as ever for connecting us with God through His Word in a way that is more about formation than it is about information.
The basic model as practiced is as follows:
- Read the passage asking and expecting God to address you with a direct and personal message.
- Meditate on that which stands out from the text, engaging your heart and your imagination, and making connections with your own life story and God’s work in you.
- Pray – what is your response to what we have heard, the cry of our heart? It could be expressions of pain, anger, frustration, gratitude, confession and repentance, praise or joy.
- Contemplate – having expressed the prayers of your heart, come then to a time of stillness and rest in God’s presence. Release thoughts, feelings and intentions to God, and thank Him for His gift of love and life and take a few minutes to simply be: to rest as a child in your Father’s arms. Then emerge from that time of contemplation, taking a word or image that encapsulates the core message of what you have received into your day.
This method of reading Scripture is a wonderful antidote to the incessant noise and demands of modern life. Normally it is a struggle for us to practice stillness and quiet. But in these times of self-isolation and physical distancing, what a wonderful opportunity to use the extra time we have to go deeper with God.
Some simple tips will help you gain the most from this form of Scripture reading.
Find a calm quiet place with minimal distractions….and let go of your own agenda. Pick a short passage of Scripture, perhaps a Psalm or a story from the Gospels. Tune into your body and pay attention to what might be preventing you being still and at peace. Acknowledge anxious thoughts and fears for our uncertain future. Anticipate and expect to be addressed by God. Thank the Holy Spirit for His presence, even and especially if you don’t feel anything. We trust that He is present, and we ask for His guidance and illumination. Read the text slowly, letting words or phrases resonate, allowing associations to arise and images to surface.
Key questions to ask yourself about intentionally seeking God:
- What stands out or seems significant? How is God catching my attention?
- What is God saying to me through this passage about Him, me and my current situation, those around me?
This need not take long; 10 minutes can be sufficient. Sometimes we believe that we need to have hours of time to do justice to such practices. But the principle is simple: allowing God’s Word to open us up to what He is showing us. Not just about the world, but about our inner selves.
As Christians, our role in this current crisis is to provide hope, encouragement and reassurance to those around you. Use the extra time you may find yourself with, as a gift from God. Spend time growing in your knowledge of Him and of yourself as you seek to be all that He made you to be. Not just for yourself, but also for those around you who need His love most.