Many years ago I boasted that my wife and I knew each other so well that we didn’t even need to talk! (I admit, I was young and stupid!) Not long after that, I woke up to realize that I didn’t know her very well at all…and it almost cost us our marriage. Just like with marriage, our relationship with God requires time and communication. Last month I wrote about communicating with our Father through prayer, which in most forms involves us doing most of the “talking.” While God communicates with us in many ways, the most significant and foundational way is through the Scriptures. The Bible is His love letter to us and “how-to” manual for life here and for eternity.
Many times, however, we read His Word in a perfunctory manner, hurrying to get through “today’s scripture reading” and move on to the next thing. For the 30 years I’ve been in ministry, too often I have spent my time in the Scriptures with some “goal” in mind…preparing for the next Bible study or sermon…rather than sitting with His Letter and really digesting it. When we take time to “chew” His Word, it nourishes and feeds our faith which leads to spiritual transformation. Foster (2009) suggests, “Our practice of the Spiritual Disciplines is kept on course by our immersion in Scripture.” Dissecting Scripture with a microscope can be wonderful, but often fails to reveal the grand vistas and overarching themes that a different vantage point may reveal. For instance, for the past couple of years I’ve been reading through the Bible chronologically…in the order the events happened…rather than the canonical order in which they appear. I began to see the broad themes of God’s faithfulness, patience, grace, and desire to be “with us.” Spiritual reading is like holding a mirror to ourselves. His Word reveals us to ourselves in truth and lays us open to radical transformation at those points of our unlikeness to Christ (Thompson, 1995). So, we approach His Word humbly, with repentance, and the desire to become more like Him, having our spirits renewed day by day.
Another vantage point of spiritual reading is in the benedictine tradition of Lectio Divina, which includes meditating or “chewing” on scripture. A simplistic description here of Lectio Divina can provide profound results: After “centering” yourself (consider time, place, absence of distractions, relaxed posture, etc. Give yourself permission to be “unavailable!”), select a passage of scripture to be read. Quality is to be considered over quantity, so number of verses is not important. Some use the lectionary to guide their reading. Read the passage (preferrably outloud) slowly. Allow the meanings, context, images to surface. Read the same passage again being aware of significant words which emerge, spending time ruminating on the meaning of the word(s) for you. What might be the application of the word(s) to your life currently? What is God saying to you through His Word? Allow your thoughts to move toward prayer emerging from your encounter with the text. Take a word, phrase, or thought with you into the rest of your day, aware of Emmanuel’s presence.
I challenge you to take time to “chew” His Word, until it becomes “as sweet as honey” (Ezekiel 3:3). The discipline will not only deepen your relationship with God and produce spiritual transformation, but also have very real effects on your other relationships and the work you’ve been called to…balancing “doing” and “being.” I would be interested in your experience with this and other forms of spiritual reading. Please leave your comments below.