I’ve only recently become an avid reader. I always really wanted to be “that person”; the brilliant and interesting one that always has a good book recommendation and chooses to read for pleasure. But, I always found myself frustrated because I could NEVER finish a book! I approached reading with the intention of only growing and learning. While this is not a bad thing, it’s not very fun. I found myself starting many non-fiction books, growing through the wisdom of the first few chapters, then loosing interest.
The one thing that awakened my love for reading was when I allowed myself to fall in love with fiction; to start reading great stories. To read simply for pleasure. To get lost in complex characters with familiar struggles in captivating settings. It’s easy to think we can only learn and grow from instructional books void of narrative and imagination. But I found myself learning and growing in the reflection of fictional characters experiencing life and overcoming obstacles in their created worlds. And I started ENJOYING books and FINISHING them! In fact, I’ve found if I throw in a fictional story ever third book I read, it helps me finish the deep, ultra-meaningful ones I find hard to get through.
This summer, my church is reading through the New Testament together and we are on Week 1. There are so many ways to approach studying the ancient text of the Bible, and I committed to this reading challenge with fresh eyes and the desire to suck meaning out of every scripture. I quickly found myself sitting down on a mountain with the disciples, listening to the profound teaching of the Rabbi as he delivered this new concept of the Way and the Kingdom (Matthew 5-7)…and even though I’ve read and studied this before, I had so many questions. I was eager to pull out pen and paper, write down every question I had and email my pastors for answers. But I stopped.
Questions are good, and wanting answers is definitely a good thing. But, the best teachers don’t just give you answers. They give you a bit of guidance and encouragement, and the opportunity to experience the answers in a hands-on way; called LIFE. The lecture is great, but the lab is essential.
I picture the disciples sitting criss-cross applesauce around Jesus, each one raising their hand over and over again like eager Kindergartners with puzzled faces, as Jesus delivered his mind-blowing lecture on the mount. But the Bible doesn’t say Jesus provided a Q & A session after his sermon. He did mention a concept that was perhaps a foreshadowing of how the disciples would get all their questions answered…
“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.” -Matthew 7:24
He indicated that wisdom would come from doing. The lab would bring understanding to the lecture. And the chapters that followed turned into narratives of doing. The disciples took their notes from the Sermon on the Mount and put into practice this new way of living everywhere they went.
This summer, I’m approaching the Word of God, not as just the answer book to all of life’s hard questions that will help me learn and grow. It’s my summer read for pleasure. I know I’ll have questions and will want immediate answers. But I think I’ll leave the questions looming as I get lost in the stories of the disciples following the Rabbi with audacious faith and insane courage. I’ll let the stories play out, and see if my questions get answered as the characters learn and grow through experiencing life and all it’s nuances in the first century. This summer, I’m going to read the Bible for the sheer enjoyment of it, and emulate the disciples in my quest for understanding by walking out the words of the Rabbi in the practice of everyday life.
“The essential religious experience is that you are being known through more than knowing anything in particular yourself. Yet despite this difference, it will feel like true knowing. This new way of knowing…takes away your anxiety about figuring it all out fully for yourself, or needing to be right about your formulations. With this access point, God becomes more a verb than a noun, more a process than a conclusion, more an experience than a dogma, more a personal relationship than an idea. There is Someone dancing with you, and you no longer need to prove to anyone that you are right, nor are you afraid of making mistakes. Another word for that is faith.” – Richard Rohr from “Yes, And…”