Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Re-hydrating in the tropics

"Lectio divina is the strenuous effort that the christian community gives to rehydrating the Scriptures so that they are capable of holding their own original shape in the heat of the day, maintaining their context long enough to get fused with or assimilated into our context, the world we inhabit, the clamor of voices in the daily weather and work in which we live" -- Eugene Peterson "Eat this book"

Confession- I struggle to read the Bible in an alive and vibrant fashion, often I am left dehydrated after reading "living water".  I have felt frustrated and have often given up only to try again.  Don't get me wrong, I believe in the Bible and I believe it has the way, the truth and the light within it's covers.  I just struggle to unlock the life that I know lives in the Word of God.  I have experienced it from time to time.  I have faith and believe but my ability to stay tuned into and focused on the printed Word of God is often anemic.  I know there is a promised land in the crinkly thin onion-skin pages.  I want to inhabit that promised land.

I've been reading Eugene Peterson's "Eat this book".  It has let me know I am not alone in my often fruitless and frustrating Bible reading.  He says, "There is a sense in which the Scriptures are the word of God dehydrated, with all the originating context removed - living voices, city sounds, camels carrying spices from Seba and gold from Ophir snorting down in the bazaar, fragrance from lentil stew simmering in the kitchen - all now reduced to marks on thin onion-skin paper."  I am a romantic and somewhat of a mystic, I love sight, sound, texture; living by my senses is when I feel most alive.  Yet, I love the written word, specifically God's Word.  Yet Peterson points out, "...it is not only timbre and tone and rhythm of the personal speaking voice that disappears in the act of writing it is also the entire complex intricacy of other voices buzzing in the background, children interrupting with demands and questions, thrushes singing, the sound of the rain on the roof, the fragrance of juniper burning in the fireplace, the bouquet of the wine and texture of the bread that accompanies conversation at the table"

Peterson goes on to say, "... we do not read the Bible in order to reduce our lives to what is convenient to us or manageable by us - we want to get in on the great invisibles of the Trinity, the soaring adorations of the angels, the quirky cragginess of the prophets, and ... Jesus."  Somewhat stung I realized that in fact most of the time I want convenience and manage-ablitiy in my day to day.  Here I thought I wanted adventure and passion and to really live but in reality I mostly want uncomplicated ease.  Moving to African has not accomplished that in the least.  I have been mostly miserable since moving here with bright spots of adventure and growth dotting the dismal landscape of my inner life.  Sad but true story.  Steve said to me after having another tearful conversation about the state of life here that I was stuck.  I was not living the life I could be living.  Something has been holding me back... I believe he is right.  I strongly suspect that something is a someone and that someone is me.

It's easy to blame things and other people for the ways discontent within life.  I am very good at making mountains out of mole-hills and listing all that is wrong and focusing and fondling my troubles like a pet of some kind.  I use books to escape my everyday.  Peterson quoted Walter Ong earlier when talking about the written word, "We are the most abject prisoners of the literate culture in which we have matured.  Even with the greatest effort, contemporary man finds it exceedingly difficult, and in many instances quite impossible, to sense what the spoken word actually is. He feels it as a modification of something which normally is or ought to be written."  And Peterson remarks, "Which, of course, is why many of us prefer words written to works spoken.  It is simpler, we are more in control, we don't have to deal with the complexities of difficult, neurotic, or insufferable boring people. If we don't like what we are reading we can shut the book and pick up another - or go shopping, or take a walk, or spend an hour or so in the garden."

The caveat of my discontentment may lie within my desire to have clean lines and easy strides, in my aversion to messy relationships and not being able to know the ending of trials that will answer all or most of my questions.  I want wrapped up neatly predictable story-ending formats to rule my days.  Most problems I struggle with seem unending.  I can't see around the next bend.  I have no assurances that those I love won't fall into tragedy and heart-ache.  I am looking for security and safety in a broken world.  I need God.  I need faith that believes in the end all will work out, that there is a happily ever after for all of eternity.  I need daily communion with God that is alive and active.  I need to hear his voice.

"Jesus' lead-off parable in each of the first three Gospels emphasizes that the centrality of the work of God in our lives is not about reading but about listening: "Let anyone who has ears to hear listen!" (Matt. 13:3-9; Mark 4:3-9: Luke 8:5-8)  The punch line of each of John of Patmos's sermons to his seven churches is similar: "Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches" (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22 NRSV).  Listening is what we do when someone speaks to us; reading is what we do when someone writes to us.  Speaking comes first.  Writing is derivative from speaking.  And if we are to get the full force of the word, God's word, we need to recover it's atmosphere of spokenness."  -Peterson

I want to hear His voice with my whole being.  I want to live a life led by the Spirit.  I want to not be stuck in the murky mire of discontent.  So that is my current hope and prayer. I will keep you posted on this quest for alive and vibrant faith.  Feel free to write if you have struggled similarly.  Have you found ears that listen?  My dehydrated spirit is seeking hydration of the living water.  I have faith that God will answer this cry of my heart.  He is a good God and loves me with an everlasting love.


Kristine said...

Oh my, this could have been written by me!

Kristine said...

In fact, as I read it, I thought it was my voice at times. I have heard from God, there have been times when his word is vibrant, alive, life-giving...I highlight it, cry at it's truth, memorize. And then months later, I wonder, What happened? Why is my time in the word so dry?

Honestly, the one thing I've noticed is that when I most need God, when I'm at the end of my ideas, or when I'm doing what I'm sure he told me but don't know why, I pick up on any and all clues that he gives in his word. I LOOK for his answers. And when life is in a more 'normal' routine...well it's not that I stop reading, but I think I stop listening so attentively. It's like I'm in a slightly boring conversation that I'm listening to with one ear but thinking about what I'd rather be doing!

That being said, I once challenged myself to stop and listen to God for at least 10 minutes, three times a week, for six weeks. I found that by the end of that period, I could come home from work just upset, confused, uncertain, and plop on the couch, lay the problem down to God, and spend 10 minutes NOT focusing on it. By the time I stopped, while I didn't always HEAR anything, I almost always felt at peace, like I could think about the problem a bit more logically and not get so emotional. That to me, was God speaking!

Persistence is the other key. I don't stop reading just because I find nothing in the word. I may not be in a position to listen today, or tomorrow, or the next day...but I know that day will come. In the meantime I have grace on myself, and hope that God also is showing me the same grace!

I've lived years in the US, years in Africa, and both places I find myself in the same cycles of wanting more from God's word, recieving from God's word, and finding God's word dry. I believe that when I am actively seeking God's answers, that's when his word comes more alive. I'm joining my voice in prayer with yours, Lord may your word contain life for our weary souls...and hydrate us.