In the past few weeks, I have asked you to develop a heightened awareness of who you are today and the moments in your life, both past, and present, that inform, shape, and fuel the person you are. You have joys and sadness, trials and temptations, strengths and struggles, anger and grief, stresses and questions, gains and losses, etc. You have grown up with, or possibly without, scripture study or an active life in a congregation. You may be a world traveler experiencing new cultures or someone who has never left the town where you grew up. You may be like me, someone who delights in the study of context or reads literally.
We are each unique and bring many things with us when we sit down to read the Bible. Sometimes we tend to go to the Bible looking for answers to a problem, inspiration for a decision, or comfort when distressed. Many publishers have attempted to answer those needs by creating The Woman's Bible, The Youth Bible, or The Devotional Bible for Men to help apply Bible principles to everyday life. In Lectio Divina, we do not discredit or set aside those tendencies and reframe the needs behind them.
As a funny example, I noticed that Pr. Lanny had posted a meme on Facebook. Standing at the sink, a husband asked, "where in the Bible does it say it's a man's job to wash dishes!" And the wife responds, “2 Kings 21:13 ‘and I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it, and turning it upside down.’” And while that may be a humorously applied verse fragment in a chapter that speaks of something much different, it is far from Lectio Divina!
I like to use those two images to help me focus on how I approach scripture in Lectio Divina. This spiritual practice is not a study or analysis of the author or passage's meaning. While we may come to the reading with a longing hoping to be met, we will not consciously search for answers. Instead, we will suspend above us like leaves or the stars - all of who we are and what we bring. Allow all our heightened awareness of our life to form the canopy under which we invite God to enter our hearts. Imagine that we toss each of those things into the air, and God takes them into Godself. As stars, they will shed light on us; as leaves, they will whisper to us, but they will not drive the direction of the conversation. Openness to hear what God has to say is how we approach Lectio Divina.
We will learn more in-depth about “how to” in one of our three classes before the retreat but preparing our minds and hearts beforehand makes for a more rewarding experience. That's why we have spent several articles on personal reflection.
We begin with a centering exercise, disconnecting from our cell phones and the people around us and intentionally, meditatively slowing the many competing thoughts in our minds. We will read the passage several times, silently to ourselves, out loud, with different voices, silence, and time for quiet reflection between each reading. Frequently what happens is something in the passage that will consistently stand out for you. This might be something to contemplate in the quiet time of reflection. What is important is focusing on how that image, metaphor, or person impacts you. How do you identify with it?
Sometimes what it takes to be life-altering is entering the Bible story with all that I am, not just reading it at a distance. For example, when I was a member of All Saints Lutheran Church in seminary, we did a living Tenebrae service. I was one of the readers, and my teenage son, with long dark hair, was chosen to be Jesus. To witness a reenactment of the crucifixion with my son on the cross, I intensely identified with Mary's anguish and any parent who has lost a child, adult or not, through illness, violence, war, or accident. It has intensified my relationship with my sons and grandson and granted me patience and empathy for all living things. Just a couple moments from my life that were part of the canopy above me were the death of both my parents, the discovery of being adopted and learning my birth mother’s story, and all that I had learned in seminary. No one is required to share their insights, as I have, but it will be good for you to journal your thoughts for future Lectio Divina.