Discovering a fancy word for what I’ve done for years
Sometimes I get into a reflective and contemplative mode in my personal Bible reading and quiet connection times with God—kind of like listening for that still, small, inaudible voice that people talk about. It’s been like this for as long as I can remember. The Psalms and the Gospels in particular tend to take me there. So I read, contemplate and commune with the Holy Spirit and “listen” with the ear of my soul to what God wants me to “hear.”
It is not entirely unlike interacting with good poetry, something I attribute to being an English major and a high school English teacher for some years. Digging out inferences and emotions and between-the-lines meanings is sometimes more about letting them show up than about running them down.
And so it has been and is with the Scriptures. Once the light goes on and an insight shows up, it’s so right to let it roll around awhile. Thinking it over and then thinking it over again—kind of like chewing the cud except much tastier in my non-bovine view.
It is virtually a seamless transition into prayer. When the insight is encouraging, praise is spontaneous. When the insight is sobering or confronting, expressions of humility and dependence are quite natural. And when it’s rebuke or correction, prayers of confession and repentance flow freely—at least when pride, ego and stubbornness are in check.
“How it applies” is indelibly written into my memory as a great way to transition from times of focused devotion to life application. The well worn model—What does it say? What does it mean? How does it apply?—leads inexorably to the matter of how I will live now that I know what I have learned.
Sometimes my wife, Carol, and I have experienced the same kind of process in home groups. When we engage authentically in small group study of the Bible, it seems to me the process is inevitable. Jesus himself promised that the Holy Spirit would lead us into truth. As we give the Holy Spirit our attention and the freedom to do his thing in and among us, we find ourselves experiencing together in a group setting what I have described above as a personal joy.
So here’s the deal: For this to happen, we need to be willing to slow down. In a an article published in the winter 2009 issue ofLeadership magazine, Eugene Peterson takes a shot at pastors by saying strongly that too many of us are in too much of a hurry all the time. I took my hit.
But I wonder if it’s only us pastors. When was the last time you slowed down long enough to listen carefully to God and his Word? To reflect carefully about what you hear him saying, praying both through words and open spiritual ears, and then getting on with that long obedience in the right direction?
One more thing. In the same article, I was alerted to something that I had never put together before. This process of personal devotion and Bible study has been around for centuries. Hundreds of thousands of believers for hundreds of years have engaged in and enjoyed the insights that come from Bible study and prayer. I’ve called it everything from personal devotions to quiet times. Now I’m told it’s had a very fancy name for a very long time. Maybe next time when I tell someone I’m going to have my quiet time, I’ll say I’m going to do mylectio divina. Who knew?