While I know how convenient (and useful) it is to have a short devotion every day, I have to tell you: There’s nothing more powerful than sitting with a segment of scripture for an extended length of time, and there’s no replacement or shortcut or quick-n-easy substitute for unhurried, uninterrupted time spent thinking about scripture. Put the time in, commit to it, and I promise that you will absolutely hear the Holy Spirit in every word while gaining insights that you never even anticipated. I promise. It’s what lies behind every word I write.
I learned the necessity of devoted time in my very first seminary class on the Gospel of Mark. The assignment was to read a pericope (a set of verses that forms one coherent unit or thought) from Mark multiple times each day over the course of a week and write a reflection on it. The first selection was just a few verses… verses I didn’t even see anything special about. Verses I’d read a hundred times in my life already. What was I supposed to get out of this? This is seminary Bible study?
Always the perfectionist when it comes to any assignment, though, I couldn’t just walk away from it. So, I read the pericope again. Then, I sat with it. I’m not gonna lie, this was one of the hardest things I had ever done because I’m a quick reader and a quick learner. Being still and waiting are not my strong suits. After pouring a Pepsi, grabbing a handful of chips, and rattling off all the reasons why this wasn’t going to work for me, I took a few deep breaths… loved on the cat sitting in my lap… and then closed my eyes. Relax. Just… relax…
I opened my eyes to the scripture in front of me. I read it again. And again and again, ever more slowly each time… turning the words… looking at them from this angle and that. Like a shell I’d just dug out of a sandy beach, washing it gently and discovering all the hidden ridges and notches, dips and swirls, lights and darks… the scripture took on nuances and meaning I’d never considered before. The scripture looked new.
But, it wasn’t new. It wasn’t freshly washed and shined. It hadn’t been hiding under a layer of dirt and sand. Those words had always been there in plain sight just the way they were now. It was me that was new. It was me that had been renewed. It was me seeing that scripture… really seeing it. And it didn’t take a shovel or water or scrubbing to find it. All it took was an open Bible… and a little time.
Still wondering how it all works? In my next few blog entries, I’m going to walk you slowly through a piece of scripture to illustrate how focused time coupled with a willing heart can completely change your study of the Bible.
Father, I can’t believe how much time I’ve wasted over the years and the time that’s been lost. Thank you for giving me the strength and determination each day now to spend time listening for your guidance and dedicating more of myself to you, others, and the world we live in. Amen.