Returning to Scripture – Reflection for 31 March 2019
As the season of Lent invites us to turn our attention back to God, we are often also called to return our attention back to Scripture. When this happens to me, I often find myself having to relearn how to read Scripture. I find myself reading Scripture in the same way that I would read a news article or a text book or a blog post or even an instruction manual. While God still works in me in this way, I often feel like something is missing, so I turn to other ways of encountering God in His Word.
Sometimes, I will turn to an approach that leads my mind deeper into Scripture. After praying for guidance from the Holy Spirit, I will read a passage then begin to ask questions such as “What is this passage saying?” Then, I will ask, “What is this passage saying to me?” and “How does this passage reveal the character of God and my own nature?” As I ask these questions, I will listen for how God desires to transform me through this passage. Finally, I will ask, “Who else needs to hear this message?”
At other times, it is the “eyes of my heart” that need enlightenment (Eph 1:18). At these times, I will often turn to a narrative passage within one of the Gospels (Bartimaus is one of my favorites). I will pray for enlightenment and then read the passage slowly to hear the story. I will then read again and allow the Holy Spirit to guide the eyes of my heart to experience the story. I will try to hear the sounds, smell the smells, see the colors, and allow the story to come to life. I will read one more time through and ask the Holy Spirit to place me within the story as one of the characters. I often find something unexpected in reading this way. When I do, I try to simply thank God for this noticing rather than find an explanation or meaning too soon.
When I find my soul needing nourishment, I read in still another way. The practice of lectio divina places me in a position for my soul to receive nourishment in the Word of God. The first step for me is to set aside time for encountering God’s Word without rushing. I find that I am better able to encounter in this way with a paper Bible rather than the electronic version I often use. After preparing myself in prayer, usually with the acknowledgement that God knows what I need far more clearly than I know myself, I will begin by reading through a short passage of Scripture (the Psalms are particularly good for this type of reading). I find that reading out loud is helpful on this first reading. I will read again slowly paying attention to the words or phrases that catch my attention. After this reading, I will spend several minutes reflecting and considering why these particular words or phrases drew my attention. I will pay attention to the emotions and feelings that these words brought up. This reflection soon turns to prayer as I offer any questions I may have and any feelings that may have come up to God. I will then read the passage once more and wait silently for several minutes resting in God’s presence, listening for His response, and trusting that in this time God is nourishing my soul whether I am aware or not. After this time of silence, a prayer of thanksgiving closes my reading time.
I invite you to use these and other ways of reading to allow the Word of God to bring you into the love of God in your mind, your heart, and your soul.