All nerves and a trying-too-hard accent scarf, I lock my eyes on the question in my lap: “What life experiences or crises have shaped or changed the way you read the Bible?” as I blurt with a tongue prompted oddly by Spirit, “Well, right now.” I tuck my legs more firmly into the chair and sit on my hands, like a small child.
This is not normally an issue for me–the talking in front of people, the new faces. I am a people-person, an extrovert, a charmer.
But somehow, that’s not how it works today. Today, I fought the feeling that I need to go, that this showing up may be a part of my staying to follow. I got in my car, turned the key, and half-sped to the church parking lot, still arriving late. Maybe it’s the lateness that makes me overly aware of how loud I am breathing, the tempo of my speech, the flush of my ears. Maybe.
In the circle, I babble about the gap year, the discernment, the listening, the faithfulness question, the staying, all in halted piecemeal, without the grace of hyperlink or draft. I just say it’s happening, the changing of approach. The heart I bring to scripture is different than it was even a few months ago. When I bring it at all, I add silently.
Part of the shaping I am fighting of late is the feet-dragging.
The first time I really confessed this aloud was under a taco stand awning a few weeks ago, after he made a passing half-joke about his “quiet time with Jesus.” [It’s a phrase we’ve both heard a lot. It needs changing, I think.] He nodded, knowing this means something to me. For a long time I actively avoided reading the Bible on a regular basis because I had heard one too many sermons on turning devotion into a checklist. Not me, I had said, in favor of total spontaneity, which at the time sounded like the most loving way. Last spring, that changed. Some strange combination of class and books and friends and Holy Ghost helped me realize that there was something missing, and it was scripture.
Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ Himself, I read somewhere.
I think the Incarnation means that this is not the end of it, that there are manifold ways He reveals Himself [ten thousand places, even]. But finally I knew that there was something about the words on the page to teach me about the Word, something about the stories that would teach me about who He is. Go figure.
That said, I haven’t touched the stuff in weeks.
Except on Sundays when someone says, The word of the Lord, and I respond with the rest, thanks be to God.
In a letter from a beloved longtime friend this week, she writes about a recent revelation: that her perpetual busy-ness is a method of avoidance. What am I avoiding? she asks, guessing at Confession, wondering at more. Reading this, I smiled with love, because it’s been true for a long while now. Stopping, I consider, But it’s never been true for me. Until now.
The whats of avoidance I have a guess at. It’s finding out the whys that terrify me.
If I had to guess, it’s something to do with trust, with fear, with a wounded spirit.
And in the midst of transitional uncertainty, I find that approaching a Book of which I know so little daunting to say the least. I’m not sure what I will find.
Now I’ve trailed off at the end of what has turned into Sharing Time, and I find the young priest beside me nodding, along with some of the older students in the room.
“The Bible can be hard to turn to when you are trying to listen. After all, it’s full of people hearing things they don’t want to hear.”
She glances around the room, and says, “Well, maybe this is a good place to live some of that story together.”
That may be.
When it comes time to pray, I find out, with terror, that we are supposed to pray our requests aloud, around the circle.
Friends can tell you I have a hard time with praying in front of people anyway. (I hope it’s something I get over some day, much like my former issues with talking on the phone.) Not to mention that “prayer request time” has always looked way different to me.
But praying for myself, my world, with everyone listening? Goodness.
Of course I’m up first.
Embedded in the halted, shaky litany was one of the most honest things I’ve prayed in a while: Help me to follow You instead of my own rebellious heart.
We say our Ah-mens, and the young priest rushes out to process in Rite I.
I pick up my “Book of Mark Bible Study” packet, thinking, maybe beginning again doesn’t have to be so hard.