How do we read the Bible? Pretend to be in it!
"Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments." Deuteronomy 7:9
I remember sitting in our tiny little church in the middle of nowhere Indiana and our pastor asking us all to think about why we came to church that day. Immediately I said quietly to myself, to know God. That’s the reason why I show up to church even when I’m tired, even when I could have gone to brunch instead, even when it isn’t the “cool” thing to do.
It’s the same reason why I open my Bible every day. I want to know God. I want to know Him personally, I want to have stories of His faithfulness and kindness and I want to see Him at work in my life every day. When I think of God, I think of Him as a friend.
I love the Word of God and I am so eager to share about it because for me, spending time in the Word and in God’s presence is spending time with my best friend. I want everyone to have that too!
To get to know God, we can’t just let our imaginations run wild because we all might imagine God very differently from who He actually is. That’s why going to His Word is such a reliable way to get to know Him. Scripture is a reliable source to teach us and show us the character of God, and ultimately guide us into a deeper relationship with Him.
When we approach the Word, we can use our imaginations as a powerful tool God provided us with to get to know Him in. This might come naturally for some of us, or for some of us it might feel like a stretch. This practice has been around for centuries, it is known as the Ignatian method (shoutout to Saint Ignatious) and it has been practiced and developed over the years. It’s credible, and I didn’t just make this up. So think back to your childhood of pretending the floor was lava and get ready to approach the Word with that kind of imagination and creativity.
If the goal is to get to know God, think about how you build a relationship with a friend.
You talk to them, get to know them, ask questions, and you do stuff together. When I moved to Tennessee someone told us that it takes a certain number of hours to build a deep friendship, and the best way to do that quickly is to go on a trip together. I don’t know if that’s true, but I think about all the roadtrips I’ve been on with friends in the past and building those experiences always seemed to put our friendship in the fast lane.
Think of this practice as a way of building your relationship with God by building experiences with Him.
We can pick any passage of the Bible with this strategy, but it does tend to lend itself well to stories. Just like when we were little kids listening to bedtime stories, we read the Bible and we put ourselves into the story. To avoid the initial challenge of trying to figure out where we can see ourselves in the passage, start by reading the passage a few times in order to become familiar with it.
Who is in it?
Where is it?
What circumstances are in it?
What are some of the themes?
Who is speaking?
What is being said?
Think through the kinds of questions the middle school english teacher would ask us with the novel we were reading, and start to get a clear image of what is going on in the story. Then, put yourself into the text.
If I read a passage and immediately feel like I’m resonating with the emotion of one particular person in the passage, I’ll let my imagination run with that. If I’m not familiar with a passage, or if I’m too familiar with it, I’ll try a new, unique angle. What would I be thinking or feeling if I was there?
Research is never required when reading the Bible, but sometimes it can be helpful. When I read and I don’t know a location, I like to look it up and see what it would have looked like. This can add a more vivid picture to what is happening in the text and allow us to see and feel the meaning of the passage at a deeper level.
Reading through the Bible while we imagine ourselves in it can make the Bible feel more personal and more intimate. It was written for us, so it should feel that way.
When you read Jesus’ words in the gospels, imagine what it would feel like if He was saying those things directly to you. This can be a profound exercise and a way to read and experience God in a new way.
After imagining ourselves in the passage, we can turn to God with our new questions and insights, or with a new understanding of who He is. Ultimately, my hope is that we can picture God so clearly, who He is, what He’s like, and how He speaks, that we can carry that image of Him into the world.
Sometimes, it might surprise us, and that is one of my favorite parts of reading the Word. It is living and active, so every time we read, we’re building a new and fresh experience with God, and getting to know Him better as our friend.
How to Engage:
Below are 7 passages for this week. If you are using another Bible plan, you can stick with it and implement this tool there too. If not, look up these passages and imagine them! Read the passage to familiarize yourself with it, pick a place in the story to pretend you’re experiencing it yourself, and then approach God with whatever insight His Holy Spirit gave you.
Monday: Genesis 15:1-6
Tuesday: Joshua 3
Wednesday: Ruth 3:7-13
Thursday: 1 Chronicles 28:11-21
Friday: Matthew 4:1-11
Saturday: Luke 6:1-5
Sunday: Acts 1:4-9
-How do you naturally experience God?
-Do you use your imagination when you read the Bible? Why or why not?
-Reflect on an experience when a passage, person, or verse in scripture became more vivid or real to you.
Hey God, thank you for your Word and for the ways you have uniquely equipped us to engage with it. Help us to experience you in new, fresh ways this week as we come to your Word ready to use our imaginations. Reveal to us new insights and revelations, and let your Holy Spirit guide us as we seek to get to know you better in your Word. Amen.