I have lived on Pepperdine for my entire life. So, I have grown up with students always in my house, hosted by my parents for free meals. I have also grown up with professors as neighbors and good family friends. This academic environment has taught me about the great power of the written and spoken word. Essays need to be precise and eloquent. Obscure quotes from ancient philosophers are thrown in at dinner tables as if they are common phrases that are used every day. Lecture classes in Elkins are a common topic in conversation. And then, this being a Christian campus, the religion professors dive deeply into the Bible and historical texts relating to early Christianity or the time periods surrounding it, then often are preached on.
In addition to my upbringing, I decided to major in Creative Writing. The classes that go toward my major are all English or Writing classes, therefore have a heavy emphasis on the depth of written works, along with the presentation of these works in various mediums. However, I have realized that with such focus on words and how they are portrayed it is easy to lose sight of another great form of speech.
I have recently gained a great appreciation for many visual arts. When asked about the quality of one of these works, people are not only asked about the techniques used by the artist or creator but also about how it speaks to them. So, sight is a form of communication itself. So, the spiritual discipline of visio divina is a form of prayer in which we speak with the taking in of certain sights rather than using words. It is a practice in which we look at the world around us, whether it be nature or man-made works of art, and seek to speak to God and listen for what he has to say to us through these pieces.
I had the pleasure of practicing this during the Well. Because of the smoke, the Well was held in the chapel. During most Well services, my greatest focus is on the words, the way they are sung and what they may mean. However, I decided that this was a great opportunity to practice visio divina.
For most of the Well, I was quiet. I stood in the back and simply observed. I observed the shape of the chapel and the ceiling., everything perfectly designed for great acoustics. I carefully examined the stained glass. It’s spectacularly beautiful. At night, when the world is dark outside and the chapel is lit from the inside, the glass seems to glow. And staring at the glass from the back is difficult to do when there is a sea of people in front of me throwing their hands in the air and singing their hearts out. So, I decided to watch the people for a bit. All I could see was this immense passion for God. Hands soar through the air. Voices rise higher to the checkered rafters that paint the ceiling. Swaying back and forth in groups of people, and even what could only be described as dancing.
Observation soon turned to prayer. A smile jumped to my face and I thanked God for such a great space to worship him. I then asked him for a constant desire to be close to him, one that reflects the sea of passion before me. Now, when I see stained glass, or raised hands, I am reminded of the passion I so desire from God for God.
Truly observing the world around you is a great way to understand more greatly the presence of God. It is easy to lose sight of the greatness that surrounds us, so visio divina is an excellent practice in which we can feel God through an appreciation of creation.
The UCC Spiritual Practices blog is here for you to grow and develop in your faith and daily time with God. The majority of the articles are written by UCC's own Garrett Le and Hanson Von Flue, with the guidance of Adele Ahlberg Calhoun's Spiritual Disciplines Handbook.