Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

30 August 2012

Slowing down

What to do about those really, REALLY tricky Bible passages...so hard to understand but you know they're important and you really ought to try to nut them out.  And what about those other passages, the ones that are SO familiar that you find yourself gliding over the top of them and barely taking in the detail?

Here are a couple of things I do when I need to slow my Bible reading right down in order to absorb and understand what I am actually reading. 

Firstly, I read the passage aloud.  Yep.  Even if I'm by myself.  I get to read bits of the Bible aloud with others quite a lot during the course of any given week.  In speaking and hearing the words I often notice things that I would have otherwise missed when I'm just on my own and my eyes are flying across the page so I am convinced there are benefits to speaking and hearing the Bible as well as reading it silently.   So when I get to a passage, even when I am just reading the Bible on my own, and I'm just not taking it in - because it is too hard, too familiar or I'm just not concentrating - I read it out aloud.  It makes a big difference. 

The second way I slow down my reading, and this is especially helpful for those tricky passages, is to write it out.  Pen and paper.  It's slower than typing.  Much slower than cut and paste.  I see things that my eyes miss as they fly over the page.  And if the passage is really, really, ESPECIALLY difficult I write it out almost like a list, with the smallest possible unit of meaning per line.

Take those first six verses of Romans, for example. 

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God —  the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures   regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David,  and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God  by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.   Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.   And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.

Oh my.  There is SO much in those six short verses.  But not many fullstops.  And I have to say, I quite like short sentences.  So look what happens when I break it down into its smallest possible units of meaning.

Paul,
a servant
of Christ Jesus,
called
to be an apostle  
and set apart 
for the gospel
of God — 
the gospel he promised
beforehand 
through his prophets 
in the Holy Scriptures  
regarding his Son,
who as to his human nature 
was a descendant
of David, 
and who through the Spirit
of holiness
was declared
with power
to be the Son of God 
by his resurrection
from the dead: 
Jesus Christ our Lord.  
Through him
and for his name’s sake,
we received
grace  
and apostleship
to call people
from among all the Gentiles  
to the obedience
that comes
from faith.  
And you
also
are among those
who are called
to belong
to Jesus Christ.

I learn so much about Paul, Jesus, God and myself just by attending to each little phrase a little more slowly.  Doing it by hand is arduous in some respects.  But very rewarding. 

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