Jesus Scrambled My Brain: Intellectualism and Surrendering What’s Most Valuable.
I previously discussed how I’ve learned to open up my imagination as a sacred space to communicate with the Lord. I can’t always do it, but sometimes I can close my eyes and retreat into a sacred space inside myself and just wait . . . and sometimes Jesus will appear.
This doesn’t make me special or anything. Lots of people do this. I believe in sanctifying your imagination as a space where you can commune with the Lord. You envision a setting, invite him to arrive, disengage your control of the setting, and wait. Even if nothing interesting happens, at least you’ve taken some time to relax.
I’m very reluctant to share my own imaginary/visionary experiences. But there’s one I’ve been sitting on for three years, and I’ve always felt it was at least in part given to me to share. It has to do with my own brain.
Spiritual wisdom requires us to walk in balance between throwing out our intellects and relying entirely on them. I’ve visited charismatic churches where the services were wholly driven toward emotion, and where leadership discouraged people from doing their own thinking or research. On the other hand, I grew up in a faith tradition that was extremely intellectual. Emotional experiences were often held to be completely invalid. And our worship was designed to stifle any emotional expression aside from the sort of guilt that led people to come forward at the end of the lesson for prayer or baptism.
If you engage Jesus imaginatively, you might find that he likes to mess with you. Even though I should have known better, I never expected him to be so surprising and funny as he is in my imagination-space. Sometimes I enter that holy time feeling super-serious, but leaving feeling happy and goofy.
Here’s the experience that I felt I needed to share. One day in 2014 I was riding the bus from Nashville to my hometown when I let my mind slip into my imagination space. When it happens it kind of fells like my consciousness is sliding backward from my eyeballs. At first I was just floating in darkness. But then a round opening appeared and I saw Jesus approaching me.
Keep in mind that I always take these experiences with a grain of salt once they’re over. And you probably should, too.
Well, that day, in my mind I was kneeling on one knee (like a knight bowing before his king), with my eyes pointed to the ground. Jesus came up to me and stretched out his hand. He touched the top of my head, but then his hand sunk into my skull. Then he started wiggling and squeezing his fingers. It was crazy! He was stirring my brains! I felt myself becoming disoriented as he did this. Queasily I muttered, “Not my brain, Jesus. That’s so valuable to me!”
But I knew that this was the point. My brain was my most valuable asset that I had not yet fully surrendered to him. I knew I needed to surrender it, to give him up. I had to be okay with losing my brain, with forfeiting my intellect. I needed to let Jesus know that I was willing to be imbecilic if that was his will for my life.
So Jesus scrambled my brain that day. I felt the vision was communicating that he was recalibrating my brain to make it holier, to make it more aligned with God’s will. I felt like a different person afterward. I was grateful. Letting go of that last piece of myself was liberating. I’d offered my body and my life to Jesus many times before, but I didn’t realize until then that I was keeping my brain to myself.
So, I have two lessons from my weird little story. The first is that I personally needed to surrender my intellect. It was one thing I had not given wholly to God. I needed to trust him that I could live without it in my possession. The second lesson is a reminder that we’re missing out if we approach God only through the mind. As the Apostle Paul wrote in First Corinthians 14, “I will pray with the spirit, but I will pray with the mind also; I will sing praise with the spirit, but I will sing praise with the mind also.” Our spirits, our emotional cores, are just as important as our intellects when it comes to communicating with God. That’s been the point of these two strange posts, and I hope they’ve been a blessing.
You can read more about communion with God in my book, Heaven’s Muscle.
Bren Hughes (M.A., M.Div., J.D.) is a lawyer and former minister who lives in the hills of Kentucky.