What is scripture? Among other things, it’s food. Second Timothy 3:16 says scripture is breathed by God. Genesis 2:7 says human beings are breathed by God. Just as our biological bodies need biological matter for sustenance, the breath of the divine within us needs sustenance that is comprised of the breath of the divine.
In my book, I stated that one activity that perhaps naturally should be part of a Sabbath day is reading scripture. I feel as though this might be the most invisible line I wrote. The church-attending Christian who reads that statement might say, “Yeah—I know I should read the Bible.” The non-Christian who reads it might say, “Yeah—I know you people read the Bible.”
In my life, one constant has been books. I love books, love the sharing of mind and the fellowship of ideas that books make possible. I read a lot of books. From that perspective, let me offer a view on what makes the anthology we call “the Bible” very different from other books, modern or ancient. It is this: Other books have a floor, a point where I know I have plumbed the depth of all the author has to say. With some books, it can take careful reading to reach this floor, but the floor is there. With the Bible, I have never reached this floor. I re-read and reflect further, and I discover yet more relevance and meaning.
The Bible was not dictated by God. It doesn’t make that claim. The Bible is the light of God refracted in various ways as it shined through the differently shaped lenses of different human writers over time. When we give humble attention to the study of scripture, we are looking back through those lenses in search of that light.
Last week, I felt a familiar undertow of anxiety, and for the first time ever, I knew immediately what I was missing—what I had gone too long without. I sat down with Paul’s letter to the Ephesians for 45 minutes or so, and let myself do nothing but think about what it means. The light of this study spread through my mind and through my day, and changed things.
You won’t feel an appetite. That is the difference between spiritual and biological sustenance. Go without biological food, and you will develop a strong hunger. Go without spiritual food, and your spirit will simply go dormant. When this happens, your emotions and your force of will try to shoulder the weight that your spirit ought to carry instead. The inability of emotions and will to adequately manage this weight describes most of the problems in the modern world today.
Posted July 19, 2012