“Confusion now hath made his masterpiece” (Macbeth).
How do you approach the bible, and do you perhaps read it with confusion?
I arrived at faith from an atheistic narrative. I had no idea about the bible. The bible was like the complete works of Shakespeare, big, dusty, and daunting. I lived a 45-minute drive from William Shakespeare’s hometown.
Still, his writings were irrelevant and unconnected, even when climbing aboard the school bus to travel to his birthplace in Stafford-Upon-Avon. We would sit to watch a total dramatic production; the Elizabethan language confounded us as teens. We sniggered while consuming candy at certain scenes, although the number of swordfights and brutal deaths did leave a lasting impact.
With the same mindset, a language I didn’t understand, I embarked cautiously with the bible.
I did what I would call a smorgasbord approach, miscellaneous readings around themes, such as gaining peace, joy and love, topical themes that met my emotional needs. I re-read my favourite passages that offered me comfort. Then came church ministry, and I was introduced to the blueprint method, categorizing the scriptures into a perfect mosaic-tiled picture. Each tile fits perfectly into the concept of that belief. A map, if you like, that informs us how to navigate the bible.
These days I actively read the bible to discover God, to be transformed by Him. I see it as travelling on that metaphorical path with God. This approach began when I read George Müller’s biography, the 19th-century missionary who founded the many British orphanages, a man of renowned faith and prayer. The book was thrust into my hand by an elderly lady who dropped me off for an eventful January bus ride from High River to Regina; it was 1985. Müller’s approach was to read scripture, turning each page expecting God to speak, then as he read a verse which captured him, he would pause, lingering over the verse, and then pray around that verse.
He would then travel from that verse to a place of prayer and reflection. Praying for nations, for Kings and missionaries, wherever his thoughts took him. Doing this may be for five minutes or 15 minutes, being fueled by the illuminated text, he would carry on reading, repeating the approach for hours. It was as if he travelled down the rabbit hole from the movie “Alice in Wonderful.”
This narrative transformed my bible reading. That week in frosty Regina, I consumed the book of Isaiah, mixing prayer and scripture, thought and reflection. I wrote notes and reviewed how I felt I was being shaped. The bible became a glorious adventure. The drama of scripture can be genuinely engaging.
Let me encourage you to pick up your bible (and your candies) and as you read, enjoy your journey on the path it takes you.
Phil Collins is a pastor at Willow Park Church in Kelowna.