So, how can you grab hold of God’s revelation? If the Bible offers you a transformative power, how can you let it impact your life?
There’s an ancient practice called lectio divina (or “spiritual reading”) that has been used for centuries to do that very thing. The space here is way too short to cover everything, but here’s a quick intro. If you want to learn more about it, you can find books or go online and look into it. Basically there are four components that make up lectio: reading, thinking, praying, living. Sounds easy, but it takes some practice to get into the groove. Let’s look at the first component.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But this probably takes the most practice. We live in a culture that places significant value on time and convenience, and this first practice is anything but speedy. To truly read the Bible, you’ve got to soak yourself in it.
Have you ever been to the ocean? Have you ever been in the ocean? Not just pulling up in a car, taking your shoes off, and sticking your big toe in the water. Have you ever immersed yourself in the ocean? When you do that, it’s almost as if a whole new world opens up to you. You see and feel and taste and hear things that you never could have just walking along the beach — you experience things hidden from the spectators on the beach. It’s the same thing when it comes to the Bible. When you immerse yourself in it, a whole new world opens up.
As usual, the Bible really says it best: “Place these words on your hearts. Get them deep inside you. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder.... Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning until you fall into bed at night. Inscribe them on the doorposts and gates of your cities so that you’ll live a long time” (Deuteronomy 11).
“How can a young person live a clean life? By carefully reading the map of your Word. I’m single-minded in pursuit of you; don’t let me miss the road signs you’ve posted” (Psalm 119:9-16).
Opening up to a whole new world. Eugene Peterson describes it this way: “First, it is important simply to read, leisurely and thoughtfully. We need to get a feel for the way these stories and songs, these prayers and conversations, these sermons and visions, invite us into this large, large world in which the invisible God is behind and involved in everything visible, and illuminates what it means to live here — really live, not just get across the street.
“As we read, and the longer we read, we, begin to ‘get it’ — we are in conversation with God. We find ourselves listening and answering in matters that most concern us: who we are, where we came from, where we are going, what makes us tick, the texture of the world and the communities we live in, and — most of all — the incredible love of God among us, doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
“Through reading the Bible, we see that there is far more to the world, more to us, more to what we see and more to what we don’t see — more to everything! — than we had ever dreamed, and that this ‘more’ has to do with God.
“This is new for many of us, a different sort of book — a book that reads us even as we read it. We are used to picking up and reading books for what we can get out of them: information we can use, inspiration to energize us, instructions on how to do something or other, entertainment to while away a rainy day, wisdom that will guide us into better living. These things can and do take place when reading the Bible, but the Bible is given to us in the first place simply to invite us to make ourselves at home in the world of God, God’s word and world, and become familiar with the way God speaks and the ways in which we answer him with our lives.”
What’s up with that? A book that reads us even as we read it? That’s a pretty strange statement at first glance. What other book can we say that about? What magazine ever reads us as we read it? The Bible contains our collective stories. Each of us can find little glimpses of ourselves in its pages. The people in the Bible are a whole lot like us, and a lot of them were far from perfect. We need to open our eyes and see what God would have each of us understand about ourselves.
So you can see that it’s not the same thing as reading the latest issue of your favorite magazine or a Shakespearean sonnet. There’s something different here — something that the Creator of the universe wants to tell you and wants you to understand about him and yourself. By jumping into the Bible, you open your eyes to God’s world and see how he includes you in his story.