Recently, someone I know had to say goodbye to his elderly father, who in the end, sadly, succumbed to CoVID 19. I remember him sharing 2 pictures of his dad: one, his dad in his 20’s, reading his Bible and the other, his dad in his 90’s, in the same posture, reading his Bible. His father left school after grade 8 in order to support their family and so he never had the chance for further education. Consequently, his father was a slow (but careful!) reader. As he read the verses from his Bible, he would mouth each word he read. To others, it might seem a painstakingly slow way to get through his daily Bible readings. However, in hindsight, as I learn more about the contemplative practises of Christianity, I believe that this way of reading his Bible may have enabled him to ‘hide the word in his heart’ more deeply.
So often, I read my Bible quickly, in order to have another checkmark on the list of tasks on my daily docket. Bible reading… check. But how often have I tried to recall any verses from my morning “reading” only to discover that I cannot remember what I read? Or how often have I had the experience of going back the next day, only to find that I don’t really recall where I left off from the previous day? Sometimes the verses blend into such a well-known refrain that I feel bored with the familiar phrases. Yes, yes… I remember that… and I read with such a blur of flurry that I barely scan the words before closing the Book of Life and moving on with my day.
As I learn more about the power of Lectio Divina (sacred reading), I realize that the hurry that grips my heart, my mind and my body actually hinders me from really taking in, chewing on and digesting the words of life that are before me. When I read quickly, skimming over familiar phrases, I don’t believe that I am truly giving the words the opportunity to sink deep into my spirit. I am not taking the time to interact with God’s Spirit to discover in what way God would speak to me about my life that day.
This man, a humble servant who spent the years of his life reading his Bible faithfully and slowly each morning, probably was able to internalize the words more deeply. This man who lived a simple life, providing for his family, never sought out a platform or a soap box to preach from. He was not trying to amass followers, count ‘likes’ on social media platforms and seek to ‘build his brand’. In a way, this gentleman’s humble example of faithful, daily reading impacted his son, who learned to love God, learned to read the Bible faithfully and who sought out higher education so that he now teaches others about spiritual formation and spiritual direction…. thereby impacting hundreds, who will then impact more.
I was struck by the legacy of such humility.
And during this season of Advent, I relate it to the humble beginnings of Jesus, who “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Phil.2:6-7)
An unwed teenager as his mother.
A shelter for livestock his place of birth.
A rough feed trough for a bed.
The Creator of the world …. as a helpless baby.
What a stunning example of humility: the Almighty God of the world, surrounded by cattle, sheep and goats in a rough-hewn manger bed of straw clothed in the skin of a tiny newborn. It is a true example of the upside down nature of the Kingdom of God. “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” (Jn 1:14, MSG)
Immanuel… God with us!