After a brief tête-à-tête with January Thaw, Old Man Winter is easing his bulky frame back into his comfortable chair, and by all appearances, plans to stay awhile. His breath frosts the trees and wire fences, creating magical landscapes. The mourning doves fluff their down jackets as they perch like round balls on the gnarled lilac limbs, their tail feathers twitching as they find balance. Both fire and furnace hum and purr as they attempt to keep Winter’s chill from seeping in through these old stone walls.
The beginning of a new year often prompts fresh ventures and last January, I decided to read through the Bible in a year (didn’t happen – I’m still plugging away). I wanted to see how the text as a whole would feel as my journey in faith erodes, evolves, and deepens. I wanted to read, not as one positioned over the text looking to critique and analyze, but as one postured under the text, seeing how it would read me (a suggestion from our pastor years ago). I wanted to actually read some of those stories again rather than going by my memory of them. So, I pulled out a lovely, handcrafted reading guide made and given to me by one of my sisters years ago, and started on day one.
Now, I first started reading the Bible about as soon as I learned how to read (I would not recommend this practice for a child without adult accompaniment. The Bible is full of R-rated stories and weird stuff that can be hard to understand). Reading the Bible daily, was something that was modelled in my home, and while I don’t remember parental prodding to read it, I pieced together that it was considered important. I would read seven verses each day. I was an earnest child and tried to practise what I read. I literally turned the other cheek when a kid slapped me during recess (Matthew 5:39), and I remember actually going into my closet to pray (Matthew 6:6).
I was a young girl when I had my first sense of cognitive dissonance with this book that I thought was airtight and infallible, where good and bad and right and wrong were black and white. It was the story of Rahab, the “harlot” who was the heroine in a story, saving the “good” spies from the “bad” people. But how did a prostitute, someone who in my child’s mind would be bad, fit into the good category? And now I wonder, just what were those “good” spies doing in a brothel anyway?!
I also remember a time when I was in grade 7 or 8 of not “turning the other cheek” and knowing innately that I had done the right thing. There was a girl who liked to pick on me, this Mennonite, missionary kid, and one time she snatched the toque off my head as I was heading onto the rink at school to skate. Something in me snapped, and I grabbed her, threw her to the ground, retrieved my hat, and skated off. I remember her surprise and look of respect at my non-pacifist, non-missionary response. It wouldn’t be until years and years later that I would read in Dallas Willard’s book, The Divine Conspiracy, the idea that with turning the other cheek “…I can’t just invoke a presumed “law of vulnerability.” I must decide before God what to do, and there may be grounds for some measure of resistance.” (The Divine Conspiracy, pg. 179)
When I was in my early teens, a friend told me that her approach to reading the Bible was to read until something stood out to her or spoke to her in the text. I liked that and adopted that way into my reading. I don’t remember specific texts standing out to me, but in some way the text became part of the breadcrumb trail I was following looking to deepen a felt connection to God.
The other lens through which I chose to read the Bible in this past year was one of remembering that “God let [God’s] children write the story” (The Bible Tells Me So by Peter Enns). I find this idea moving. If my kids told my story there would be gaps and nuances that would be missed even though they know me well. I would want to clarify things I had said, why I did things the way I did, and give contextual background to every story. It seems that God didn’t have that need to reframe the telling from a Divine perspective. Only a humble God would jeopardize their reputation for the sake of the children telling the story.
So, while the laugh lines around Old Man Winter’s eyes crinkle as he pulls out his bag of tricks, I will share some of my ponderings over the next while that have come out of my Biblical readings. When I expressed some misgivings to one of my sisters about sharing these kind of thoughts publically, she encouraged me to remember that these are homespun musings. That is the spirit in which I offer my musings – homespun and organic. As we pull our wraps snug around us to ward off the cold, let’s keep ourselves open to the warmth of the Breath of Love.