One of the challenges this past year in my experience with the Spiritual Exercises in daily life involved the use of imagination. When I was younger–mid-twenties–I found it easier to place myself in the picture with the Lord.
This past year, some problems surfaced. It’s one thing to seek out the easy passages: Jesus calling fishermen, Jesus in the household of Martha, listening to Jesus telling a parable. These are far different from the difficulty I encountered being with Jesus in the desert, to cite one example.
I struggled with this until stumbling on being a bird, watching from the branches of a tree as Jesus encountered the devil.
One of the graces from spiritual direction this past year has been not to just dismiss an image or experience because it worked once. Stay with it, my retreat director urged last month. Another spiritual friend suggested I take the bird image and switch it up: what if God were the bird, and I were the man walking? And remarkably, it was an amazingly rich set of suggestions.
I was a bird on the cross, and as I regarded Jesus’ head, I felt the urge to use my beak to pull the thorns away. Are such things permitted, I wondered. Using one’s ability to fantasize into a story or scene is one thing. But changing history?