The Reality of His Presence
Christ’s presence is not something we need to call down or call for. He is here, now, all around us, and for those of us who accept Him, in our very beings. It is the Holy Spirit who operates here, making His presence the solid reality on which we are to build our lives. But this begs the question: If this is true, why do so many men feel disconnected from His presence? As I have listened to men over the years, there are many secondary reasons based on each man’s own story. But there is a primary reason that runs through them all — busyness. Men are overrun with urgent things that scream for their attention. They are overwhelmed with responsibilities and deadlines. And they are overtaken with fear, anxiety, and shame.
But there is a better way. It is the way of silence. Here a man leaves behind the distractions and burdens. Here he becomes aware of Christ’s presence — His quiet voice, His gentle promptings, and His fierce love. Silence is the surest on-ramp into a felt experience of that presence.
The Use of the Imagination
One of the most important ways a man can experience Christ’s presence is through his imagination. The imagination is perhaps our greatest gift as those made in God’s image. Nothing important in history, art, music, literature, even science has ever happened without the use of the imagination. Here we become sub-creators, using the material of the created world to re-create in new and different forms. I say all of this to challenge the common misconception that the imagination equates to only what is imaginary, unreal, and even untrue.
In my work as a spiritual director, I have men imagine Christ with them. Sometimes they will imagine themselves in a safe place and invite Jesus to join them. Or during a time of silence together, an image is given to them. What happens next is always surprising. He comes. And He heals! What these men experience is not imaginary but using their imaginations to access what is the most enduring reality of all — Jesus Himself. Here are a couple of stories.
Stories of Healing
One man came to me wrestling through so many issues: temptation with pornography, conflict in his church, always seeking affirmation from others, and just exhaustion. As we sat in silence together, an image came to him of flailing and drowning in water. Jesus came to him and pulled him out of the water into the boat. Then He took a towel, patted him dry, and gently chuckled, saying, “Hey, would you just stop?” It’s a healing image my friend has returned to again and again. He senses Jesus’s personal care and counsel in the midst of stress and busyness.
Another man came to me struggling with immense shame, yet he also sensed Jesus leading him on a journey out of that shame. I asked him to take some time in prayer and imagine Jesus with him on that journey. When the time of silence was over, he told me how Jesus took him on an actual journey down a road. At one point, they stopped and played soccer together (a sport he plays), and at another they built a boat together to help a group of people cross a river. Whatever they were doing, Jesus was always just in front or behind him. He said he could still sense the voice of shame, but only way in the background. It was the presence of Jesus that made all the difference.
Both of these men are still on the journey of letting Jesus heal them, but the experience of His presence has made all the difference. His very presence is healing.
A Couple of Options to Consider
I have countless stories like these, enough to fill a book, as well as stories from my own life, all attesting to the vibrancy of His presence. He is alive and on the move! If you are interested in learning more of how Christ’s presence can heal men, consider these two options:
- Every Tuesday in March, starting on Mar. 3, from 6:30-7:30 am in the Covenant Presbyterian Church sanctuary, we will be hosting a time of guided silence for men, using Scripture and prayer.
- The next Heroic Retreat is April 17-19 at St. Meinrad Retreat Center. We will help you enter His presence, using teaching, story-telling, and times of structured silence. For more information and registration, click here.
In the next post, I will address how the presence of Christ is our initiation as men. Stay tuned…