Visual Lectio Divina

I remember the first time I experienced Lectio Divina. More importantly, I remember the verse I memorized that evening and the key phrase that caught my imagination while I listened attentively to the words of Galatians 2:20 being read and reread. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live IN THE BODY I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.”

I had read Galatians countless times before that evening but I had never noticed the connection Paul makes between faith and the body. Through Lectio Divina these words took root within me, and continue to guide and comfort me, especially in the challenges of living within an imperfect and aging body.

Since that first experience, I’ve enjoyed other opportunities with “Divine Reading,” but predominantly my time with Scripture is spent alone, reading print on a page.[1] My mind is often a race horse, galloping through paragraphs, jumping over familiar phrases, eager to get back to the barn for a carrot and a pat on the back for being a good girl. But I miss the scenery along way and don’t stop often enough to drink from the quiet streams.

A few years ago I developed a new way to study God’s Word. I call it Visual Lectio Divina. When I read a passage of Scripture, I simply draw what I am reading. This forces me to slow down and pay attention to all the details. I am not a trained artist, so I use stick figures and simple symbols to translate the Bible into a visual form that shows me what the text says and reinforces my memory by adding kinesthetic learning to visual and/or auditory [2] learning. Drawing circles for heads in Acts 23:12-16 showed me that forty was a large number of conspirators who took an oath to kill Paul

 

—but nothing compared to the 470 soldiers in verse 23 who protected Paul as he was transferred to Caesarea in the middle of the night.

At this point in my life I desire to see whole books of the Bible in one broad and detailed view. So I have taken time to study and sketch through entire books and then arrange and paint the scenes onto large canvases, creating teaching tools for myself and others.[3] Seeing an entire book at once makes patterns and processes more apparent. As I painted 100 scenes from the Book of Acts, I noticed how Luke chose to record parallel incidents in the lives of Peter and Paul (imprisonments, beatings, healing a crippled man, raising someone from the dead), giving credence to Paul’s authority as an apostle.  Here are examples from Acts 3:1-10 and 14:8-13. [4]

 

 

This method works best with narrative passages, but it is also a helpful tool to unravel some of the complex theological statements in Scripture. Here’s my take of 2 Peter 3:5-10 and Colossians 1:5-6.

Now: suspend your inhibitions and give Visual Lectio Divina a try. Choose your own passage or sketch Jesus’ temptation in Matthew 3:16-4:11 or Luke 4:1-13. See if putting ideas into images yields new insights. For a didactic passage, explore the visual differences between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:19-23, or compare the way Paul and James approach trials and suffering in Romans 5:3-5 and James 1:2-4. I hope you will share your results!

Debby Topliff from Saugatuck, Michigan will begin the ITIA MLitt program in September. She loves to express her faith through many art forms including painting, writing, singing, gardening, and a dance form of tai ji. As grandparents of 5, she and her husband are surprised and delighted to be spending this season of their life in Scotland.

_____________________________________

1 Recently I’ve discovered the pleasure of reading the Bible on my iPhone. The small. agile screen allows me to focus on one phrase at a time and capture words and meanings I might otherwise fly over.

2 It’s effective to combine auditory lectio divina with drawing.

3 Revelation, Acts, and the Gospel of Mark. See more at www.debbytopliff.com

4 Within each book, historical figures wear unique “outfits” so you can trace them throughout the narrative. In Acts Peter wears green with a brown sash and Paul wears blue with a yellow head scarf.

Author

  • Debby Topliff from Saugatuck, Michigan will begin the ITIA MLitt program in September. She loves to express her faith through many art forms including painting, writing, singing, gardening, and a dance form of tai ji. As grandparents of 5, she and her husband are surprised and delighted to be spending this season of their life in Scotland.

Join the Conversation

2 Comments

  1. says: Alizabeth Rasmussen

    Your illustrations are beautiful, and what a wonderful way to experience the practice of lectio divina. I have experimented with using photographs taken by others as a visual lectio aid, but I imagine it would be even more powerful to create my own drawings (even though I don’t think of myself as that kind of “artist”), or possibly take the practice into the world and seek a visual representation of the day’s reading.

    Thank you for the inspiration!

  2. says: Michael Carter

    Excellent article! I have been following this practice for years. Some of my work can be seen at-
    http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/368-michael-carter.html

    Blessings!

Leave a comment
Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags are not allowed.

1,519,736 Spambots Blocked by Simple Comments