You may not be familiar with doing Lectio Divina, so I’m going to give an example of what it can be like. Obviously writing a sample experience is nothing like you having your own experience. But hopefully this illustration can give you a sense of what it is like to practice this spiritual exercise.
Find a time and place where you can be alone and quiet for a while. Ask God to speak to you and help you hear His still, small voice. Now open your Bible to the passage you have chosen to read. Read it slowly, naturally, and audibly a few times. Go slow. Pay attention. Let’s use Mark 4:35-41 as our sample passage:
35That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side." 36Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?"
39He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?"
41They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!"
Did a word or phrase start to stand out to you? Did an image impress itself on you? Did a feeling resonate with you? There is no “right” answer.
Was it Jesus leaving a crowd? Was it the seemingly irrelevant inclusion that other boats were with him? Was it seeing the waves nearly swamp the boat? Was it seeing Jesus asleep during a crisis? Or was it the disciples’ understandable question “Don’t you care?” What about the winds obeying him? Or Jesus questions – “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Maybe it was the disciples bigger fear of Jesus or their question “Who is this?” that you can relate to. Or maybe it was the whole story.
Let’s say it was the phrase “Why are you so afraid?” that caught your attention. It was a question posed to his disciples. Now let Him pose it to you. Let the phrase sink in. Ponder it in your heart (Isaiah 57:11). Let it penetrate (Hebrews 4:12).
Now that the Word has spoken so personally to you, you’ll respond to God. Maybe it will go something like this:
“God, I am afraid. I seem to be afraid all the time. But why am I afraid? I’m afraid of dying. I’m afraid that someone I love is going to be hurt. I’m afraid of not being accepted and loved. I’m afraid that you are asleep. That you aren’t paying attention. I’m afraid that you don’t care. Do I need more faith? Do I love and trust myself and others more than I love and trust you? God help me to not be fearful.”
You’ll begin to run out of words. You will reflect on what happened – how God’s word revealed something in your heart. You may need to process it some more, returning to the text later. Or maybe you will need to make some conclusions that lead to actions. Maybe you will see that you have attached yourself to other people and things too much that has caused you to be fearful that you will lose them. Ask God to help you to love and trust Him more than these things so that you won’t be fearful.
Your “lectio time” ends, but its effects keep working in you over time. It’s like spending a half an hour at the gym. Even though your time of lifting weights or running on a treadmill is done, your body is still reacting to it all day by building up muscle fiber or maintaining a higher metabolism rate. And like physical exercise, this spiritual exercise has its effects over time. Don’t expect to change in one day. Don’t expect to change if you only try this a few times. Its benefits come from regular use.
If you want a spiritual gym partner, I will be practicing this exercise throughout 2006 and posting my experiences. I hope you join me.