One of my new pregnancy symptoms turns out to be insomnia. The past several nights, I’ll wake up to go to the bathroom and then suddenly I’m wide awake! 3 am, really?! And I usually spend the next 2-3 hrs just awake – no reason at all. So during these dark hours when NOTHING is going on anywhere, I’ve had some interesting things rolling around in my head. Some of those things I have found interesting enough that I wanted to share them with you…one at a time, of course.
I remember the complaint a lot of us had regarding what we were taught in school. “How is that going to help me in the real world?!” One of the things that I know we all learned during school that is SOOOOO important to our lives in the “real world”, and that I am discovering it is especially in our relationship with God. READING COMPREHENSION!!
You learn to read as you start school, and learning to read is not just about able to recognize the words on the page that form the sentences. It’s about understanding what you read, recognizing how the sentence/paragraph/chapter you just read relates to the one you’re presently reading. Yet somehow, there’s this disconnect when kids/teens/adults read the Bible. Reading the Bible becomes about memorizing the “catch phrases” (“by his stripes we were healed”, “trust in the Lord with all your heart”, “For God so loved the world…”). And then actually understanding the Bible requires “revelation from God.” And guess what? You will not insult God or remove the “holiness” of the Word if you break down chapters and verses (aka paragraphs and sentences) the same way you did Lord of the Flies in the 11th grade!
So, in case you need a jump start, here’s a few steps that will get you started.
1) Identify your pronouns
– If you start reading a passage and everyone is a “he” and everything is an “it”, then maybe you need to back up a bit to figure out who “he” is and what “it” is.
2) Identify the historical/cultural setting
– Somehow it becomes easy to forget that “bible times” wasn’t a separate time period from other time periods in history. The people written about in the Bible had to learn to co-exist with the Babylonians and the Egyptians and the Romans – all of which are studied and documented cultures in history. They weren’t some special breed of Egyptians from another dimension that just interacted with the Israelites, they were the same Egyptian culture that you watch documentaries about on the History Channel. So, use that knowledge and information to enhance your understanding of scripture. And the Bible isn’t the only documentation of Mosaic law-based cultures or even early Christian cultures, so learn some history!
3) Identify word origins
– The English language has proved to be a very limited language when it comes to accurate expression of thoughts and concepts. We are all aware of the example of the word “love” – you’ve got a 1 in 4 chance to get the meaning right when you translate it to Greek. Look up words, learn their roots. You might be surprised to find that what teachers and preachers told you a verse meant really isn’t what was intended by the writer.
4) Re-write the passage in your own words using what you learned from completing steps 1-3
– This was probably my least favorite assignment from any Literature class I took. But is probably the most useful when it comes to testing if you really understood what was being said by the author and what was happening in the story. So, when it comes to doing this step with the Bible, it does a couple of things for you. A) It gets all the thee’s and thou’s and heretofore’s out of the way to make it feel more natural B) It increase the remember-ability of the subject at hand for you to be able to summarize and share
I’ve learned that taking this seemingly academic approach to the Bible leads me to one of three places: 1) I learn something about God – his characteristics and his way of thinking. 2) I learn something about my role as a child of God – the characteristics I should have and the way I should be/think. 3) I learn something about my role as a disciple of Christ – the way I should speak and act. Therefore, this process isn’t about getting brownie points because I read my Bible. It’s about me taking what I’ve read and learned and evaluating my view of God or my ways of being and thinking or my ways of speaking and acting to see if they line up with what the Word says.
So, if you just want brownie points, keep it up, you’ve probably got more than you can count. But if you want to know God, understand the Bible and how it applies to you and where you fit in with all of this, then dig in! You don’t have to sit around and wait on a “zap” from Heaven.