We are full of memories, memories as varied as our individual lives, they define us, tell us who we are in some ways.
We need them to learn from and to push off from into a deeper future, a future which will be greater because we have learnt. Not to remember is not to learn.
Aristotle said: ‘Memory is the scribe of the soul.’
Some of our memories have left deep lines in the soul and we wish they weren’t there. These won’t be impacted by mere information, they need to be transformed into a pattern rather than a scar. Who can do this? Only a master craftsman. The designer of our soul no less.
We can know this transformation by encountering Jesus. Encountering him is the only way the very best of things has ever happened to us anyway. We might not have known it to be an encounter and perhaps we find such terminology makes us a bit squeamish, but encounter it is.
How else did we become believers if it wasn’t by hearing his voice, seeing things differently and responding to him? Sounds like an encounter to me.
How can we know an encounter with him then? Thankfully there isn’t only one way, but I’d like to tell you how to put yourself in the way of an encounter. It isn’t a one size fits all absolutely guaranteed method, there isn’t such a thing in a real relationship, but this is one way of making yourself more available and receptive to him.
Do you ever find the reading of scripture can leave you with a sense of dissatisfaction, a kind of ‘Is that all there is to it?’
If we read and leave then yes, sometimes that is all there is to it, sometimes it can leave no impact on us if we are reading without due care and attention, almost hit and run..
but…if we read and return, then we have more chance of those words sinking in and making their mark on our soul. Perhaps even making the lines in our soul into something beautiful rather than the dreary ugliness we suspect they trace.
A simple habit can change the way the words impact us, how simple? Very simple.
Take a short section of a narrative and read it aloud, if we do this daily the story becomes vividly detailed and we can start to see it much more clearly, maybe even imagine how we would fit if we were there.
I’m going to be reading these verses this week, would you like to join me?
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23. NIV
Isn’t this time-wasting and playing with scripture in our imagination? Shouldn’t we be studying it instead?
Yes and no, study is great and helpful, but it does a different thing to this sort of reading, so yes we should be studying scripture, not instead of this, but in addition to it.
As for whether we should be using our imagination or not, well, funnily enough our imagination isn’t some aberration of our nature which has taken God by surprise. He has made us to see things with our mind’s eye as well as the physical.
As we spend time reading aloud and so hearing the story, we find our imaginations are fired up, we see things we hadn’t noticed before and can imagine how we would feel if we were there, we can wonder what we might have said, perhaps instead of dismissing the reactions of those who were there at the time, we may start to understand in greater depth the confusion they might have known on hearing Jesus tell a parable for the very first time.
Valuable clarity can come like a shaft of light shining on a text as it is read over and again, little things fall into place as they are looked at from various angles over a week of repeated reading.
Importantly we get to see Jesus in sharper focus, we see his character standing out against the backdrop of a broken and rebellious humanity as the beautiful nature it truly is.
We see the different ways he interacts with people, that he loves to intervene in lives, healing, restoring, delivering, lifting up, rescuing, any and all of the needs he sees, he meets.
The question is will we go to him and meet him so giving him the opportunity to make eye contact with us and say what needs to be said, or will we just read on without due care and attention?
I know you want to grow in favour with him to receive all you can from him, this is one way for this to come about. Respond to him. Let his words soak down to your soul and rework the lines, let him show you what he can do with those scars, see how beautifully he can change the dullness into a piece of craftsmanship that nothing and no-one else will be quite like. Your past and even your present can be made into the backdrop of a thing of great beauty, but no artist creates in a rush, so give him your time, because you can’t spend time with Jesus and stay the same.