What is theology but faith seeking understanding? It would seem to me then that in threshold times when we need more understanding, not less, we would delight in trusting God (faith) to expand our theological thinking. Yet we move into this with necessary caution because what we need in threshold times is not more information, but deeper experience of that information. Early church elders referred to this type of expanding theology “when the head sinks into the heart.”

Here are a few suggestions for how to practice the contemplative discipline of allowing our heads to sink into our hearts.

1. Study deeply a theological perspective that you know you need during your threshold time. Go for deeper understanding by experiencing what you are studying.

2. Dust off the role of imagination in theologizing. Listen to what N.T. Wright says about it:

The Bible helps us, enables us, to understand, to re-appropriate, to celebrate the role of the imagination as part of our redeemed, renewed, image-bearing humanness. You need imagination to live in God’s world. The Christian church has often been bad at encouraging imagination. … But the arts, the imagination, our capacity to create beauty ourselves, is not simply incidental to what it means to be human. For generations now, many Christians have really believed, and acted on the belief, that the arts, the imagination, are the pretty bits around the edge, the kind of decorative border, whereas the middle bit, the main bit, whatever it is, is the kind of solid, stodgy, chunky bit in the middle which is Christian truth, dogma, belief, and ethics, and all that stuff, and then you can kind of go away and play sometimes around the edge if you’re lucky.19

So how can we heed Wright’s encouragement to shift from the solid chunky bit in the middle and play around on the edges of theological imagination? Engage the right side of your brain. Engage all the senses. Get your body into the act.

Do what Henri Nouwen did and study a masterpiece painting juxtaposed with a passage of scripture.20

Do what a pastor friend did when he faced personal tragedy; he took vacation time to ride his bike across multiple states, experiencing deeper theological understanding about suffering and God’s sovereign care during hard days and cold nights of riding.

Pray in Color.21 Draw key theological themes. What new theological insights come to you as you do this?

Pray with your body. When I swim, I enter into a personal sanctuary, every stroke and kick reminding me of God’s rest and strength. Use motions in prayer. Your body will tell you something that your mind could not. Trust me on that one.22

19 “The Bible and Christian Imagination,” Transcript of N.T. Wright’s May 18, 2005, Lecture at Seattle Pacific University.
20 The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming, (1994).
21 Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God (Active Prayer Series) by Sybil MacBeth (2007).

22 Body Prayer: The Posture of Intimacy with God, by Doug Pagitt and Kathryn Prill.

The Crucible of Threshold Times: Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There Page 13