The Time I met Jesus on a Park Bench

So much of what we do each day is experienced through our senses. In conversation with others, we hear them, we see them, we experience our surroundings (even if we’re on Zoom!) and it is tangible. When we pray in mental prayer, from the silence of our hearts, we can lose sight of Whom we are praying to, perhaps sabotaging our efforts to be vulnerable, desensitizing ourselves, and impersonalizing our relationship with Jesus, because we can’t easily perceive or imagine His Presence.

While I may have previously mistrusted my imagination to unduly distract myself in prayer, I have recently discovered an increased intensity and intimacy, when I ask the Holy Spirit to creatively guide my imagination in prayer.

I imagine approaching Jesus Who is sitting on a park bench. His Arm is extended across the backrest and He’s gesturing for me to come and sit with Him, a little sideways on the bench so that we are face to Face. I think it’s safe to say that the current Chosen series has no doubt influenced the Jesus of my imagination, with his smiling face, focused gaze and His brotherly teasing. When I meet Jesus on the park bench these days, He looks an awful lot like Jonathon Roumie and kind of acts like him too!

With every word I imagine He speaks to me, He reassures me of His Love for me and His intimate Knowledge of my circumstances. He recognizes my deepest feelings and the innermost desires and intentions of my heart. He answers questions I haven’t even asked yet! He teases me gently, making light of my insecurities (affectionately) and expertly putting into focus what most matters: my personal relationship with Him.

When I’m anxious, He reminds me that I can get through anything if my eyes are focused on His and I trust in Him. I can get through anything when He is with me. And He is always with me. I can use my imagination to experience His Presence more personally, more strikingly, more tangibly.

When I have felt myself in the midst of a panic attack, He held me close to His Chest, my ear to His Heart, so that my breathing gently calmed and quieted to match His Heartbeat. I melted into His Embrace, comforted and equipped once again to trust in Him completely.

I recognize that my worry, my stewing, and my panic relieve nothing and only exacerbate my anxiety.
I am prompted to actually surrender my concerns to Him.

It’s a choice of the will.
It’s an active willingness to pray and to trust.
It’s saying the words and meaning them.
It’s directing my focus on Him, rather than inward on myself.
It’s moving on, switching tracks, and even deliberately distracting myself from destructive thoughts.
It’s a choice to remain confident that He will take care of the rest.

It’s a conscious effort to bundle up my worries into a heavy little package and leave it on the bench beside Him, or at His Feet
and then just talk to Him…and listen as He responds!

Excerpt from the upcoming new release: Prompt Me to Pray with the Saints by Monica McConkey
Arma Dei: Equipping Catholic Families

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