I Know Where the Water Is
When traveling through the desert you better know where the water is. While most of us probably don’t live in the desert, the idea of the desert is an appropriate metaphor for trying to live life disconnected from life-giving resources.
What are the life-giving resources that nurture you?
As a faith leader, I’m hopeful “studying the Bible” tops your list. But I also know it is easy to get distracted by the demands of organizing classes, selecting curriculum, and recruiting volunteers. Sometimes studying the Bible feels like a luxury rather than a necessity.
Bible Study is a Life-Giving Resource
But studying the Bible is a necessity if you want your faith to guide the decision-making in your life. Studying the human-divine relationship throughout history is a valuable way to understand how God might be at work in our world today. To discern the presence of the divine in real-time, we have to internalize the way God works in relationship to God’s creation, including humanity. And the Bible is the source for this witness.
What has been your relationship with the Bible over time?
I don’t know about you, but throughout my life, I’ve had a variety of relationships with the Bible. In my young life I heard the stories of the Bible – the ones hand selected for children. As an adolescent I looked up passages in the Bible searching for answers to my questions as if the Bible is some sort of dictionary or encyclopedia. As I learned about my world in science class, I had questions about the Bible that my faith leaders were unwilling to engage, so I stopped reading the Bible altogether.
In college a friend lived with such grace that I wanted to know her secret. “My faith,” she told me. I picked up my Bible again – this time as if there was some magic buried in its pages that I just needed to discover so my life would also look that good. As an adult, I returned to studying the Bible in classes with a leader and lessons, and I learned about the Bible. Then I went to seminary and I learned even more about the Bible. And I still had questions.
Bible Study as a Way of Life
Then I met Boyd Whaley and started working in the ministries of North Georgia Family Counseling Centers (NGFCC). Boyd studies the Bible as a way of life. His PhD in the Hebrew Bible contributes to the depth and breadth of his knowledge. I liked listening to Boyd share what he learned from studying the Bible. The frameworks that emerged from Boyd’s Biblical studies took root in my own life as we discussed their application. These frameworks became a valuable and healing guide for my life.
But I still didn’t study the Bible as a way of life. I continued to search for texts that supported the study I was writing or the sermon I was preparing. I didn’t read all of the Bible. I didn’t read the parts that made me uncomfortable or the parts that didn’t support my theological understanding.
Until last year.
Last year I read through the entire Bible and sorted the books/passages into one of the four lenses through which we discern the Work of the Spirit in the Faithful Family Life studies. Boyd had introduced me to this framework, and we’ve followed the themes of Transcendence, Love, Wisdom, and Power when developing workshops and studies since I joined NGFCC in 2010. Through my experience of reading through the entire Bible in a year, I finally committed to forming my own practice of studying the Bible as my way of life.
As an educator, the beginning of each school year marks the start of a new theme. This year we will be studying Power. The reading plan is available to all members of the Faithful Family Life website. Each day, I make note of questions that emerge through my reading, and I share those questions on a 1-page conversation guide that can be used to facilitate weekly small group studies. Participating and Facilitating members of the Faithful Family Life website can download the weekly leader guide as part of their membership.
As a faith leader, if you are in need of a daily practice of reading the Bible, I invite you to join me. The practice takes about 15 minutes each day. It would be an effective tool to empower the families you serve to “Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7, NRSV).
Over the next 4 years we will read the entire Biblical text and explore applications for living a faithful life in dialogue with science, tradition, and experience.
I still have questions, and I’ve experienced the value of a supportive community in which those questions can be discussed and explored. I’ve learned where the water is. Come, let’s go there together.