“And if we’re going to be faithful to scripture, we must learn to love it for what it is, not what we want it to be.” Rachel Held Evans
This might seem like an obvious statement for a seminarian to make, but I think about the Bible a lot. So much so that for a long time, the Bible had been mentally reduced to a seminary textbook which I lugged begrudgingly from class to class. After all, I have spent the last few years reading, exegeting, parsing, translating, exploring, preaching from, wrestling with and sometimes almost drowning in the Scriptures. And I should tell you that it is hard to love something when it’s your homework assignment.
But lately, I’ve noticed that the Bible has snuck up on me again.
Because I used to think that I understood the Bible (after all, I was the 8th grade Bible champion back in 2001). But in many ways that Bible I understood was so flat and I thought I had figured it out. I used to think I loved the Bible but I think in many ways, I had no idea what that even meant.
But now I spend my lazy Saturday afternoons with my Greek New Testament flipped open to Romans with multiple commentaries scattered around my kitchen table and I fall asleep at night thinking about Genesis creation stories and what they mean. I struggle with the Bible all the time. I fight with it. I want it to say what I think it should say and when it doesn’t, I want to pretend that it does anyway.
It confuses me, because I don’t know what to do with Joshua…or Daniel and I certainly don’t know what to do with that story where Elijah has two bears eat all those children.
It overwhelms me, and I don’t know what to think about it. Because the claims it is making are too expansive for me to grasp. So I just stop. I move on to Kierkegaard or Barth, but they never let me stay away for long. Before I know it, I’m back in Romans wondering what exactly Paul means when he talks about the righteousness of God.
But it also still finds ways to inspire me, like when I stumble upon verses in Jeremiah that say: “
Thus says the Lord: Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16)
And in all this struggle, I am beginning to see that the Bible is deeper than I ever imagined. It is more complex and beautiful that I ever gave it credit for being. And now as I read it, I hear the different voices that speak out across the generations to tell me something about what it means to be a Child of God, and about who that God is. As Barbara Brown Taylor puts it in her book, The Preaching Life:
“[Because of the Bible] I am not an orphan. I have a community, a history, a future, a God. The Bible is my birth certificate and my family tree, but it is more: it is the living vein that connects me to my Maker, pumping me the stories I need to know about who we have been to one another from the beginning of time, and who we are now, and who we shall be when time is no more.”
It is a testament to who God is, and just like God, it is too intricate to be condensed into devotional or even a textbook. And so, I’m learning how to love the Bible again, learning how to love it for it is in its entirety and not just love the pieces that fit into my little ideas about God and God’s people.
And I’m learning what it means to say that this book is the Word of God for the people of God.
Thanks be to God.
Jennifer is a third year MDiv student from Atlanta and a Student Ambassador.