Like many churched children, I was one of those who received my first “real” Bible when I was very young. It was my birthday, and it was also Easter, the perfect time to receive such a gift. I remember thumbing through the pages and being just a little distressed that there weren’t more pictures, but it wasn’t that kind of Bible. What I DO remember was the pictures that were there, among them a picture of Jesus walking along the road to Emmaus with two unwitting disciples - Cleopas and old what’s his name. It’s a familiar picture and a powerful image if you know the story (Luke 24: 13-35).
Powerful Images Create Powerful Moments
I was talking with a close friend the other day (you know, one of THOSE friends, a real kindred spirit). She has this awesome walk with God going. She’s very intentional in how she cultivates that relationship with God, listening intently to hear God’s voice, watching ever so closely for the blessings that God bestows, and giving thanks each and everyday. As she and I were talking, this very powerful image entered my head. Like the image of disciples walking the road with Jesus, it was an image of her walking a dusty road with Him, the two of them walking as friends, sharing in conversation, smiling and even laughing together. I decided I could learn a lot if I just walked along a few steps behind and watched her walk with Jesus.
I shared that powerful image with my friend, and she suggested, “What if we could picture our loved ones the same way with Jesus? What would that look like?”
So I began to imagine that. My son is a surgical resident in his first year of residency. And sure enough, as I pictured him in surgery there stood Jesus, all scrubbed in, guiding and steadying his hand. It was a little odd, maybe, but powerful still, especially if you think you might be his patient someday.
And so it was with other members of my family as I imagined how Jesus might “meet them on the road.” Visualizing Jesus with these that I love became a very powerful way of seeing what He might do in and through their lives.
Using Visualization in Bible Study
Why not use this very same approach to make Jesus real in the lives of your young people.
- Begin with what is in their Bibles - the pictures that might be there. Ask why they think that the Bible editors put these particular pictures in their Bibles. (The idea of course is that the editors wanted to make the story come alive through visualization.)
- Ask them what particular pictures are most meaningful to them and why? It may be that they identify with certain characters, or they identify with certain situations depicted by the pictures, or they like what the picture tells them about God.
- Ask them what picture they would create to show themselves with Jesus. What would they be doing? What would they be saying? What would Jesus be trying to teach them? What would Jesus be trying to show them? You can even ask them to draw, color, or paint that picture. Remember that some of your youth are visual learners, and this exercise can really draw upon their interest in visual arts.
Picture Your Youth with Jesus
Here’s the homework for you - picture each of your youth individually with Jesus and ask those same questions. What is Jesus trying to do with each one? What are the words that Jesus would say to each one? What are those things calling you to do in your ministry so that you can be the hands and feet of Jesus at work in in each one’s life? To do this, you really need to know your young people, and that can be a challenge. But it’s a worthwhile challenge and will deepen your understanding of your youth and increase your effectiveness as their spiritual guide.
A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words
Sometimes an image is all that it takes, and sometimes words just get in the way. Let God speak through visual imagery, and you may be amazed at the result.