Getting Into the Word

Getting into the Word: Spending time reading and studying the Bible.

In those early, passionate high school days, it was like an excavation. I was “getting into the Word” to find something, to plunge my fists into the Scriptures and come up with fistfuls of diamonds.

I wanted words that I could hold on to, stake my life on. I wanted to write them down in my star-printed fabric journal that was (I’m sorry to say) embellished with a puffy paint Jesus fish.

This was how we approached the Bible then. We built entire theologies around single, obscure verses. The Prayer of Jabez, for example. (More on that in a later post.)

There were lots of collections of Bible verses printed when I was in high school. Books of “promises” for every emotion and difficulty—single Scriptures pulled from their greater contexts and filed alphabetically, categorized for ease of use.

We were hoarders. I was a hoarder. I learned somewhere along the way collect the lovely pieces of Scripture, to line them up on my shelf and watch them glimmer in the lamplight.

I watched a documentary once about strip mining and mountaintop removal in the Appalachian Mountains. It was about the way they use explosives to blast away the mountaintops, the “overburden,” blowing holes into the landscape.

They are eager, these companies who engage in this madness, to get at the dark glimmers of treasure under the surface. So they are leveling peaks, dumping earth into valleys and hollers, contaminating the streams, filling the air with clouds of fly-rock.

It is an easy mistake to make. After all, we are all eager to get at treasure. It is easy to forget about the tall, tall tamaracks. Balsams, frasier, red spruce – these too are treasure. The peaks are rolling over one another into the distant sun; the great oaks are descending into coves. The landscape forms a context for everything beneath.

We are wild with our excavation, and we have strip-mined the Bible too. We are grabbing at the old, beautiful words and slapping them onto our problems, onto the ills of society, onto our enemies, and there are repercussions. There are always repercussions.

It’s like this: the air is filled with the filthy grime of “promises” found lacking when pulled from their larger context. It is hard to take a breath. It is hard to drink from the streams of Living Water when the water tastes like sulfur.

Since my wild Jesus Freak days, I’ve taken some time away from the Bible. I couldn’t breathe it in anymore. I couldn’t find a place to stand among all that broken earth.

Slowly, I am making my way back.

I am coming at it differently now, not as a consumer or an excavator…I am coming slowly. I am coming quietly. I am thinking of it as a landscape, trying not to disturb the wildlife as I take my seat among the tall grasses and wait.

The words rise and fall in ten thousand small stories that make up one great Story. I am resisting the urge to pick up the pretty rocks. After all, if I sit here long enough, these beautiful things will become part of me. Landscape always becomes part of you if you let it in.

Instead of grasping for treasure, I want to only take out what I’ve brought in—my own broken, battered Spirit. Hopefully it will be a little stronger, lighter after sitting still in all that grace, all that beauty.

  • http://www.simplelivinginc.net Neal Brower

    “Sit long enough and it will become a part of me.” We love to invite people to stop the strip mining too. Ours is not to conquer the word of God, but to be conquered by the God of the word.

  • Carra

    It’s amazing how little emphasis is put on true Bible literacy in the Christian community. We are encouraged to pick and choose our perfect verses instead of wrestling with, or meditating on, whole passages. I love how your post shows the destruction in that, and I think you are on a beautiful journey back. I can’t wait to see and hear what you find.

  • Mandy

    To build on Carra’s comment – when we approach with a “pick and choose” mindset, it’s easy to have tunnel vision – to see only the verses that are comforting, that fit into our own (personally biased) worldview. We allow ourselves to ignore the uncomfortable, the hard to understand, the convicting, and the mysterious that makes up our knowable, yet wholly unknowable, God. I love the metaphor – letting the landscape/God’s Word become a part of you. That image helps support the spiritual life that focuses on what God can do, rather than what I can do (a murky pit of futility).

    • Addie Zierman

      Agreed, Mandy. I think a lot of damage has been done by pick-and-choose theology. Love this line of yours: “We allow ourselves to ignore the uncomfortable, the hard to understand, the convicting, and the mysterious that makes up our knowable, yet wholly unknowable, God.” Beautiful.

  • http://lookingattheprettythings.blogspot.com Suzin

    Did we go to the same high school-have the same early Christian experience-the same church? Every time you write, it is like flashbacks in my mind and the sayings…oh the sayings you write that we all said and many of us had written on the inside covers of our Bible-oh, was that just me??

    It is so wonderful to come back to Scripture with a new reverence, a new perspective, more grace-even when reading the tough stuff, the stories we wrestle with (as my 9 year old so pointed out-“so you are saying that God sent an angel of death to kill children-really mom, our God!).. Yeah, stories to wrestle with for sure….

    Thanks for writing this and for the trip down memory lane (I still have my copy of Jesus Freaks and could sing the song word for word!)… and mostly, for reminder of how soothing and powerful it is “to get into the Word.”