Friday, February 17, 2012
An Unexpected Friend in a Time of Fear
Last week an old friend visited me quite unexpectedly. I was doing my devotions when I was directed to a text that has meant more and more to me every time we sit down for a chat. Scripture has a way of doing that; it becomes our friend when we spend time together. A passage of Scripture can sit with us when we are down, be honest to us when we need a friend to tell us the truth, and accept us as we are when we when we just can’t be who we aren’t (or we discover we aren’t who we thought we were). Familiar passages can comfort us, challenge us, and soothe us. When we have a history with a Biblical text, the memory of that text can illicit warm thoughts; it can also remind us of how far God has brought us from the last time we were together.
For many, the Bible is a book of answers. For some it is a book of instruction. For me, especially as I grow in faith, it has become a friend. The stories that I have spent time with, the little verses and phrases that have jumped out to speak to my heart when my heart needed a word from the Lord, each have become very dear to me. For example: one day I was sitting with my Bible wondering how I was going to get everything done I needed to do. I was feeling particularly vulnerable to failure; my resources were so depleted. To be honest, I was in a season of lament. I was overwhelmed. That morning the devotions led me to read a section from Isaiah 41. The second time I read it, verse 10 jumped out at me: “Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” At that moment, a friendship was formed. I was introduced to a text that spoke to my circumstances. We sat and had coffee together. I told the text my story and it told me a truth I needed to hear. We became best friends that day.
How we read the Bible is as important as when we read the Bible. If we pick it up and read it like we’d read a newspaper we’ll only get details. If we read it as we would read an encyclopedia or an article on Wikipedia (for the computer savvy) we’ll only get information. But if we can sit with it as we would visit a friend, sharing time, insights, what we’ve been going through and how it is weighing on us, then we are open to allowing God to speak to us in a word or a verse, a phrase or an image that has the potential to speak deeply to our hearts.
Years ago, I heard a professor talk about meditating on Scripture. That sounded so formal. I didn’t understand what he meant. Today I think I know. For me meditating is forming a friendship with a particular passage. We sit and talk to each other. We share what’s going on. We listen to one another. And, somewhere in there something deep happens. It becomes personal. God speaks.
How do you read the Bible? Do you have friendships there? Sometime today, pour yourself a cup of coffee or a glass of iced tea, maybe even get a slice of cake or a piece of pie, sit with your friend, tell it your deepest concerns, your most frightening thoughts, your needs. Listen to what your friend says to you. Let your Bible become God’s Word to you.
Len Keever is the pastor of First Baptist Church of Dunn. This article originally appeared in their church newsletter, The Builder.