If you have ever tried to make an extremely sharp change in direction on your bicycle while traveling a trail at high speed only to find yourself face down in the mud, you know that this type of change is not only dangerous, but it is also extraordinarily difficult to pull off. In contrast to the sharp twist of the handlebars that resulted in the endo, a gradual shift of a couple of degrees can take you swooping through the ride of your life. So it is with obedience.
Lectio divina as a spiritual exercise transitions our encounter with the scriptures through four steps, starting with a reading that listens for the voice of the Spirit to rouse us. He calls us to linger in the scriptures, perhaps on a phrase or even a single word. We reflect on this text, allowing the Spirit to wring His message for us from the words. Our prayer centers upon this message, not to simply receive it, but for the wisdom regarding its proper application. Our final step is to obey this call.
The final step in the spiritual discipline of lectio divina is contemplatio. The disciple contemplates the application of the Spirit’s message to our lives. In other words, we obey what we have been directed by our Lord. Without this step, all of the rest is for naught.
The contemplation that we engage in is twofold. Initially, we are seeking to understand the meaning of the message for our choices today and tomorrow. Caution is required not to reduce the obedience to a series of check-list items—treat people better, check!—but instead to see it as an incremental step toward a more Christ-like image. The message that we encounter in this spiritual discipline is often subtle, but it is designed to works its way deep into our souls. As our souls are transformed, our outward expression to the world is transformed as well.
The second order of contemplation is this outward expression. Christ’s sanctification is not purely for our own good but for good of all. As we become more Christ-like as a body, our influence as salt and light has much more of an effect. We become less two-faced and present the singular image of Christ to the world.
We must not underestimate the effect of even the smallest shift in obedience when played out over the scope of a lifetime. The slightest move in obedience to our Lord is not to be dismissed. What seems minor today can become radical when viewed over the span of our lives.
Grace and peace to you.
image JL outdoor photography