Post by Therese Kay
People tend to participate in visio divina with an image such as a painting, drawing, or stained glass window, but I want to illustrate that visio divina can be done with any kind of art, artifact, or scene.
Image Used for This Visio Divina
This bone needle is from the Met collection which recently released thousands of images into the public domain. When looking for an image, you can choose anything that resonates with you – even photos of your family! This needle spoke to me on a few different levels which you will see as I walk us through the visio divina I practiced with this image.
Preparing for Visio Divina
Take a few deep breaths and quiet your mind. Invite the Holy Spirit to come and meet with you during this time of prayer and contemplation. Some people find it beneficial to meditate on a cross, lit candle, or other quiet symbol to help them begin to focus on God.
I chose to listen to some soaking music: https://youtu.be/3o4Kkw9BdsU and to light a candle as I began to pray and invite God to meet with me.
My Visio Divina with Image of a Bone Needle
Relax and open your heart and mind to God. Ask God to speak clearly to you in a way that you can hear. Prepare to bring the whole of yourself – analytical, emotional, and intuitive – to the process. (Hebrews 4:1) Ask God to open the eyes of your heart, enabling you to see what God wants you to see. (Ephesians 1:17-19)
If the image is specifically related to a scripture, scene, or story from the Bible, go and read it.
This image relates to Luke 18:18-30, specifically vs. 25.
“For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Take a “first look” at the image. What are your initial thoughts and feelings?
What is it about earthly things that have such a hold on us that we are more willing to cling to them than to the God who created us? There are three holes in this needle. I wonder why. Did it hold multiple threads or was this a special kind of needle?
The reason this particular image spoke to me is because of my Mom. My Mom was a seamstress and needles are for sewing. Just about any time I see something related to sewing, I think of her.
When I think about my Mom, I remember some of the struggles we had. At times I judged her faith harshly believing it wasn’t deep or genuine and I was so very very wrong about that. I didn’t know how wrong I was until my sister died and I saw how my mother clung to Jesus in her pain and sorrow - and God met her there. It took losing my sister to see my mother’s faith. It was always there, I just hadn’t seen it and because I couldn’t see it, I thought it didn’t exist – and most definitely I mean that because it didn’t exist in the way I *thought* it should exist, it didn’t exist at all. At that time in my life I wanted to go to a different church. To me represented being willing to leave behind my family in order to follow Jesus. I did go to various different churches but always gravitated back to St. Stephen’s because it felt like home. It’s where I first learned about God and started exploring what it meant to love Him. It wasn’t the church being spiritually “dead” that was the problem, it was me being spiritually blind. It took a long time and a lot of maturing to become less judgmental and to know that God alone is the author and finisher of our faith whether we see it in others or not.
My wealth is not monetary in this world. My wealth is in my friends and family and I question my ability to leave it all if Jesus asked me to tomorrow. I hope that I would. I think that this is what He meant when He said with man it is impossible, but with God it is possible. He is the one that gives us the strength and the courage to live out the calling He has on our lives. Lord, please keep my hands open. Release my grasp on the things of this world and help me to focus on the things above.
Record your initial impressions of what you see and what strikes you in the image.
I did that above. Often these steps blend into one another and that is OK. This isn’t a formula and it certainly isn’t one size fits all practice. Adjust and tweak to what meets your spiritual needs.
Take a second look and explore more fully your reactions to the image. What feelings are coming to you? Why? Sit with those questions, thoughts, feelings, and reactions before God and ask for clarification.
I’m thinking more about the three holes at the top of the needle. I think the thread got woven through in a specific way. If you put thread through only one hole of a needle, it is easy for the thread to slip out of the needle. If you thread it through two, it would be more secure, but thread it through three, it is very unlikely to slip out. Three makes me think of the trinity, also the verse about a cord… Ecclesiastes 4:12 “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Though slightly different, it’s similar. The thread being thread through three holes instead of just one or two is less likely to slip.
I also find myself contemplating the tip of the needle. It had to be sharp or pointed enough to pierce between the fibers of the cloth it was sewing. The process of piercing through takes concentration, careful placement, and sometimes a bit of force. God repairs our broken places with compassion and care but sometimes it hurts. Like a sword. This brings to mind Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” The needle has to penetrate, divide, and split, even as it repairs.
I also think of removing splinters, and of course what comes to mind is Matthew 7:4 “How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” which circles me straight back to my Mom and how judgmental I was; how judgmental we were of each other, really. We can be so harsh with those closest to us. On my own, I cannot remove the plank in my eye, but with God it is possible. He is the most expert plank remover I know. Being so close to Good Friday, I also think of the fact that the cross Jesus was crucified on was made out of planks. Our judgment, our planks, our splinters, our sins – that is what Jesus died for – to remove the plank from our eye. And then, once the plank is removed then removing a splinter, like a mother removing it from the finger of her child, becomes an act of compassion and love – even though it hurts.
Record the feelings, thoughts, questions, memories, and meanings that arise for you.
What does God want to remove from my life? What does He want me to leave behind? What is He calling me to that is impossible for me alone but is possible with Him? I feel like the biggest thing for me is fear. He wants me to let go of fear so I can take hold of His hand and walk with Him wherever He leads me. He wants to be the needle and calls me to be the thread, to weave myself into Him and follow where He leads. When I do that, when I allow myself to be led by Him and cling closely to the Trinity, then He can use me in His repairing of the hearts and lives around me.
Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into all truth. Bring all of what you’ve experienced before God. Does the image now evoke a value or different way of thinking or being? Does it open or deepen a desire in your heart? How do you feel God is calling you to respond? Gratitude? Supplication? Wonder? Lament? Confession? Forgiveness? Praise?
I shake my head in wonder at the fact that God uses us at all. He doesn’t have to, He chooses to. Like when He brought all of the animals in creation to Adam so He could name them, God invited Adam into the creative process. Likewise, He invites us into His redemptive process in the world. He calls us to be His hands and feet in a hurting and broken world. If I am the thread to His needle, I can join in bringing healing to a fallen world but I need to let go of my own agenda to do so. If, as a thread, I get all knotted up, then I resist the sewing process and am no longer following and the sewing stops. Jesus helps me/calls me to untie those knots of resistance so I can flow through the fabric and follow Him with ease. I need to untie myself from the things of this world, my fears, my doubts, my insecurities in order to be able to follow Him and be of use in the redemptive process of bringing His Kingdom here on earth.
Record in your journal the insights you want to remember and the actions God has invited you to take. Spend some time thanking God for speaking to you.
I feel like God is calling me to cling less to the world and more closely to Him; to follow Him as closely as a thread follows a needle.
Thank you, Lord for speaking truth to me and meeting me here during this time. Thank you for opening my eyes and ears to see and hear you in a new way.
If the image really spoke to you, you may want to spend time in further inquiry.
This will be for another time, but I’d really like to know more about the three holes at the top of the needle. This particular needle was made of bone but there were others made of ivory and metal. Was this a matter of technology or was it a matter of function – or a bit of both? What was a bone needle used to sew? Could you sew through leather or other animal hide or only cloth? And the actual function of the three holes in the needle? Interesting.
Lord, if there is more for me to learn here, I ask that you will teach me.
I hope you enjoyed this series on visio divina and that it helps you to add a new tool of prayer and contemplation as you spend time with Him. Remember that He can speak in so many different ways. I hope you will keep your heart, eyes, and ears open to see Him in all the ways He wants to reveal Himself to you. He wants to be known by you!
Have you tried it? I’d love to hear about your experience!