On a run last week I listened to the podcast, OnBeing. Krista Tippet was interviewing Eugene Peterson, who most know as the man who translated the Bible into the Message. I’ve gone back and forth about the message over the years, but something I’ve learned is I usually feel differently regardless after learning more and “getting to know” the person or thing I had opinions about before.
There were a couple things he said that made me want to rush home and open a book, one of which being the Bible. I haven’t felt encouraged to read Scripture in a long, long time. Part of that comes from just not doing it, and part of it comes from having it read it and feeling like I’m not “getting anything” from it. I’m imagining most believers or pastors reading this and having lots of comebacks- you’re not reading enough or for a long enough time, you’re not praying enough, or you should journal/memorize/prayer scripture, etc.
I’ve walked myself through all of those conversations, tried to coach myself to get back in there, just do it! Nothing stuck, until I was reminded of the deep sense of wonder in The Bible. Something that always irks me is seeing those lists of versus passed around, like, “Here are 20 verses for encouragement, the best verses for teachers, the best versus for depression/sickness/healing/etc..” Maybe those verses in the lists were just what someone needed, and maybe when I read the Bible as a young Christian I would “get something” more often, but now I don’t want to use the Bible. Its not a prescription, or a book to just read what you like, and I don’t want to cheapen it by limiting one verse to one thing.
I’m reading a series called The Magicians after watching the first season on TV. These college age Magicians are at a school and find another world called Fillory. They thought the world was fiction, since it was the setting of children’s novels, and suppose to be beautiful and filled with talking animals. Its a definite allusion to Narnia, except when they get there, it is not what they were expecting. It doesn’t fulfill them as they thought it would, and as adults, they learn that life isn’t all fantasy and fun. I’m still reading the books, and while I understand what the author is doing, I would still rather read Narnia. I would rather believe in the wonder and camp out in the joy C.S. Lewis captures. I think this is where I am at with Scripture too. I can be grim about it not fulfilling me like it used to, or I could search again for the wonder of it.
Here is a clip from the podcast where Peterson talks about the Psalms.
And somebody told me that the Psalms were a good thing to read, so I started reading the Psalms. And I couldn’t understand them. “God is a rock?” What does that mean? “My tears are in your bottle?” What is going on here? And I just kind of struggled with that, but people had told me it was important to read the Psalms. And about a month into that, I realized what they were. And I didn’t know the term “metaphor,” but I realized what metaphors were. And so then I was off. And the Psalms were my introduction to poetry.
The psalms, and so much of the Bible, is poetic and rich. It holds depth, in a single verse, but more so read as the whole piece of what was written together. Peterson also talked about how he reads Psalms and uses them to pray. I was encouraged by the simplicity, but beauty in which he described how he learned them and learned to pray them.
But for years I have — the first thing in the morning, I have about an hour of just quiet and coffee. And — but I picked seven Psalms that I thought were, kind of covered the waterfront of what’s going on. And I memorized them. And I picked pretty long Psalms, so I’d have to work at it. And so, on Sunday, I do Psalms 92, which is a Psalm for the Sabbath. And then I go to Psalms 68, which is kind of a — it’s a collection of pieces of Psalms from different kind of settings, but when you read through the whole thing, and that’s a pretty long Psalm you realize all of these things kind of fit together if you’re paying attention.
We have so much to pay attention to. So much to wonder about. So much joy still left to be found. It doesn’t have to be another world, or a fantasy, its right here when we look.