Reading and Meditating on Scripture | Spiritually Fit
Now that we have our rhythm in place, we are going to talk about spiritual disciplines that will function as exercises to help along our fitness journey. Today, we are going to talk about reading the Bible and meditating on the lessons found therein. If you’ve attempted some sort of Bible reading challenge and fallen short, stay tuned because today our focus isn’t on checking off verses on a Bible reading plan but rather reimagining the way we think about the text and focusing in on the mindset that we bring to exploring the Bible.
Reading Scripture: Goal Oriented or Journey Oriented
I live in the Pacific Northwest and married a woman who grew up here and loves all of the activities that the beautiful landscape around us offers. She loves to sail, ski, cycle, paddle board, backpack, and hike. I, on the other hand, did not grow up here. I grew up in the desert of southern Idaho, where the temperatures were often too extreme, one way or the other, to enjoy outdoor activities. As a result, I grew up indoors and spent very little of my life “playing” outside. However, over the years, I have learned to enjoy many of the activities that bring great joy to my wife. I’ve fallen in love with the water and just last year I learned to ski. Yet, I’m still searching for the joy in one of my wife’s favorite activities. Sometimes I feel like I’m destined to never enjoy hiking. There’s something about the arduous trek uphill, for long amounts of time, often in the scorching heat or pouring rain that I struggle to appreciate. I want to, but I can’t. In reflecting on why I have realized that much of my negative outlook towards hiking stems from my mindset. When I commit to a day of hiking with my wife, the first thing I wonder is how short of a hike I can get away with suggesting. When the day comes and I step out of the comfort of my car, boots hitting the dirt, my next thought is ‘okay, you just have to make it to the top.’ And herein lies the problem. At its core, hiking isn’t a goal-oriented activity. Sure, everyone who hikes is planning to get to the top. But, as it turns out, the top is always only halfway. The point of the story is that I wonder how often we come to the Bible with a goal-oriented perspective. We either want to get something out of it, cross it off our to-do list, or finish reading it so that we can join the “Read through the Bible” club. But reading the Bible is also not a goal-oriented activity. Instead, these activities have the most impact when we choose to be present with the one we are traveling with, to listen for the things we cannot see, and to revel in the beauty and mystery which surrounds us. When we reimagine the Bible in this way, our mindset shifts, we are able to set aside the goal and instead pursue the journey.
That being said, changing our mindset of Scripture is a process that can seem daunting. But, recognizing God’s intent for the Bible helps us to realize that we aren’t supposed to go at it alone. In her latest book entitled Inspired, Rachel Held Evans talks at length about her winding and twisting journey with the Bible. In the introduction, she talks about the ways she has encountered the Bible at different stages in her life and encourages the reader to consider the perspective that they bring with them to the text. She talks about the power of the Holy Spirit that is at work in each of the Bible’s inspired lines and the mystery and wonder that comes from experiencing a text that is animated by the breath of God. One of her key takeaways for us is that the Bible is meant to be read collaboratively. She writes:
Inspiration is not about some disembodied ethereal voice dictating words or notes to a catatonic host. It’s a collaborative process, a holy give-and-take, a partnership between Creator and creator.
Evans, Rachel Held. Inspired (p. xxiii).
The point is that from the very beginning of the Bible’s inception, our sacred texts have been a collaborative exercise between God and God’s creation. When we choose to journey, we never journey alone but with the One who created us. When we choose to journey, we choose to be present and to explore that which is right in front of us. When we choose to journey, we just may find new insight, hope, and life like the many who have traveled before us.
As we talked about above, one of the most important parts of changing our outlook on Scripture is to practice presence. There is no better way to practice presence than through meditation. The idea behind meditation is simply to create space to be focused and present with God. Conversely, one of the best ways to meditate is to focus on a specific piece of Scripture, to repeat them and let them soak in over time.
Reading and meditating on God’s word is a timeless discipline that is practiced in many different ways. One of the oldest meditation practices is Lectio Divina. Lectio Divina is Latin for divine reading and is a tradition reaching back as far as the 6th century. Lectio Divina always includes reading Scripture aloud, meditating on the words of Scripture, praying that God would reveal truth, and finally contemplating the application of God’s truth.
Taking time to dig deep into Scripture is what meditation is all about and in the words of Rachel Held Evans (p. xxiv):
If you’re curious, you will never leave the text without learning something new. If you are persistent, you just might leave inspired.
Spiritual Fitness Challenge
This week your spiritual fitness challenge is to use one of your set aside spaces in your rhythm to try Lectio Divina.
Set the tone: Quiet your mind. Ask God to be present and to reveal something new to you in this time. If you want, feel free to put on some calm music.
Read a short Scripture out loud to yourself. If you need a Scripture reading, Psalm 1 is a great place to start.
After reading the Scripture, sit silently and think about what word or phrase stood out to you. Sit and reflect for 1-2 minutes.
Next reread your Psalm 1, or whatever Scripture you are reading, and think about why God might be making that particular word or phrase stand out.
After finishing the reading the second time, sit silently and think about what the importance of the word or phrase might be for your life right now.
After a couple minutes, write the word or phrase that stood out to you down and reflect on ways you can employ this insight in your life in the the next couple of days.
Finally, close in prayer asking God to equip you with the tools you need to live more fully into the truth that was revealed to you.
Next week, we will be taking a look at two of my favorite spiritual disciplines: prayer and journaling. If you are excited about spiritual fitness, help us get the word out by sharing this post to your favorite social media channel. It’s as simple as selecting an icon at the bottom of the page.