God speaks to me in images a lot.
It’s hard for me to share that openly, especially with an audience that might think that’s weird. But it’s true. When I’m praying, God often gives me pictures, symbols, images — even whole scenes — that unfold in my imagination.
But maybe you can relate to this. Maybe you’ve had vivid dreams, where you woke up and just knew it meant something important. Or maybe you’ve had moments when you just knew something came to you from a source other than yourself —something that felt like God, the universe, or something cosmic or otherworldly speaking to you or showing you something or answering your prayer.
Maybe it’s not such a far stretch for you to believe God can speak through our imagination.
It’s true. God can. It happens to me a lot.
So, here’s a story of a time that happened that maybe will mean something to you. Maybe you’ll see yourself in it. Maybe you’ll see God.
You know how sometimes in a dream, you just know someone in the dream is a certain person? In this image, my experience was like that. I was walking along a grassy hillside, and I just knew the person walking beside me was Jesus.
Then we got to the crest of the hill, and he stopped and turned, drawing my attention to a scene below us.
A dark and rundown city.
The city was surrounded by a high concrete wall, and over the wall I could see buildings upon buildings of all shapes and sizes.
The next thing I knew, we were standing outside the city wall, getting ready to walk through to the inside.
Once inside, I could feel the soot. All the pollution, filling up the air. Buildings towering above us. People hurrying along the streets, scuttling from one street to the next, not catching a single eye, not saying one word, just hustling and bustling to get where they needed to be.
Do you know what that’s like — rushing along the street, not catching the eye of a single other person? It’s rather lonely.
Then we were in a dark hallway of a dingy apartment building. A lone light bulb hung uncovered near the door. At the far end, against the wall on the ground, huddled a lone dark figure.
I couldn’t see the figure’s face. A hoodie covered their features.
But Jesus walked toward them. Approached them, quiet but sure. Knelt down beside them. His shoulder touched theirs. Leaned his back against that same wall. Pulled his knees up to his chest, sitting just the way they were.
Jesus in the dark and dingy places.
Jesus in the places we’re alone.
Jesus with his back against our wall.
Jesus in the same posture as us.
Jesus a quiet presence.
Jesus a sure pursuer.
When people talk about Lent, this is one part of what they’re talking about: the belief that God really enters our experience,that God actually comes to us, that God meets us where we are, that God even experiences what we do.
It’s a 40-day walk toward Easter, where we meet upon the idea that God entered the human experience so fully, God even experienced death.
People talk about “giving up” something for Lent. Some give up eating chocolate or meat or soft drinks or coffee. Some people give up Facebook. It’s a way of letting go of things we might normally use to cover up our pain, just like God gave up avoiding the pain of human experience and death.
What if we practiced giving up loneliness? What if we chose to look people in the eyes when we walk those city streets, rather than scuttling along in silence? What if we let ourselves believe Jesus is right here, sitting in the hallway in the darkness, next to us?
What would that be like for you?
Christianne Squires is a writer and spiritual director who lives in Winter Park, FL, with her husband and their two cats. She has a pretty imaginative prayer life, but God uses it to change her life — and she’d love for you to experience the ways it can change your life too. Learn more at www.stillforming.com.