Saturday, May 4, 2013
“Oh how I love your law. It is my meditation all day long.” Psalms 119:97
Not all who read the Word are in love with it. To some it’s just a manual, referenced to get the facts. Some read for technicalities and loopholes, hoping for what they can get away with. For others it’s a book of obligation they examine to be sure of compliance. Then there are those who love it. They see it. They hear it. They get it. And by the Spirit begin to personify the Word.
The lovers are not anguished by mystery, feel little obligation to fill in gaps of uncertainty, cover over apparent contradiction, or make excuses for the book if it does not square with popular epistemology. They have settled with a book that may not presently answer all the questions. They live with the questions and live with the book they don’t fully understand, knowing the Word shall not be confined to the pages of script. The pages convey symbols of thought, but these will not contain (that is, confine) or limit the Word that transcends page, symbols and thought.
So don’t just read in search of facts. Read and let it fill you with faith. More than academic endeavor, it is sacramental, a spiritual experience. E.g., if you read the Book of Revelation as if it predicts the future you will miss the picture it paints of the present. And don’t be so focused on discovering absolutes that you let pass the mystery, the beauty, the song. By saying there is no contradiction in the book, we may be saying what it refuses to say for itself. Irregularity, dichotomy, paradox, etc., are employed to communicate and commend to the heart/mind. Careful not to put the Word in a box, fence it in, tie up its hands, kidnap the genius.
Ever had a piece of music convince you of something? Without strict polemic or hard proof, just pure soul and authenticity that speaks for itself, leaping over the moat of reason into the heart, convicting and convincing - no spectacular philosophical engineering - just heart and soul. The Word romances the heart with love song, sweet murmur and lyrical whispers that move the soul, surpassing cold rationale.
And if you imagine monotone it isn’t there. Rather than a solo, it is a choir - not one voice but many. There is strong melody but hear the harmony. We say it is divine, and so it is, but don’t ignore the human elements in the book, allowed by the Spirit - the Word is made flesh. Like Jesus (divine and human), so our Bible has divine elements, human elements and conveys the Word. Like Jesus, willing to get his hands dirty, willing to crawl down into the ditch with us, so this Word comes in work clothes, gritty, real and incarnating.
Listen to the words without presupposing what holy writ is suppose to sound like. It is unscripted and unrehearsed. Why impose a perfection that is not real? We know the difference between a television drama and a true documentary. The drama may be perfectly acted, but the perfection makes it obvious - it is an act. The documentary or true reality show is less scripted, not perfect, not an act. Our Bible lacks the perfection, the act if you will, of a staged performance. It is truthful, earthy and has the ring of authenticity, connecting with real life.
Some will, in their desire to preserve the Word, insist it never changes - and I get that. I get how they try to protect the Word from folks who crook it to their like. Yet we must not, in our efforts to defend the Word, be found captivating it. There is divine adaptability innate to the Word, making it fresh for each new day and relevant for every context. Layers, we say. There are multiple layers in this living book. Do we not wrap the book in leather (that is to say, dead skin)? Every time we open it we peal back a layer of dead skin, revealing living freshness. We peal back ancient layers and find mercies new every morning.
The Word in the book is most wonderful, at times playing hard to get. It may not yield if you have no heart to pursue. There is mystery but the mystery intrigues. You do not have to fully understand to know. You do not have to fully grasp to have. You possess only as you are fully possessed. And there is no promise it will not hurt you, for hurt you it will, but the pain is a sweetness you do not refuse.
Complete and immediate understanding is unnecessary. Sit with it, live with it, be in its presence. Relationship, courtship, and romance – it is a knowing of the heart that allows for a knowing of the head. Beyond reading there is living with the Word. Beyond interpretation there is manifestation, transformation and incarnation.
This Word points to a person, not to the exclusion of the conceptual, but beyond concepts and precepts to a person. Our practice of religion, theologizing, theorizing and academic endeavor etc., is fine and good so long as it all follows after the person Jesus.
Come to him who crossed over to us. Made flesh so he could bleed, suffer and die. Dead, to conquer death. Alive, to make us alive. Hero, Captain and Friend. Brother, Lover and Lord God. He is the Word.