Meeting Life at the Table

In conversation with my dad this evening he mentioned something an old seminary teacher of his used to talk about regarding scripture study:

There are two ways to read scripture.  One way is to lay it on the table, put it to sleep, and do surgery on it.  The other way is to sit at the table with it and have a conversation.  The first way to read scripture refers to an analytical approach: breaking it apart, examining how it’s built, looking at where the pieces came from and how they fit together.  The second way refers to an ongoing, living dialogue.

The point in this differentiation isn’t to say that one method is better than the other.  To continue the metaphor of looking at scripture like a person, there is much to be learned from looking at how a person is put together and built.  This sort of examination can give an explanation for why they move the way they do, what allows them to make sounds, why their voice sounds like it does.  But it is quite another thing to listen to just what the person may say to you when they are awake.

It occurred to me that it’s much safer in a way to keep this metaphorical messenger asleep to examine him.  It puts the situation on my terms.  But to keep him awake and become involved in conversation with him engages me personally and takes me out of a safe position of control.  I am then no longer an objective bystander, but am subject to the effects of the message with which I am engaged.

It also occurred to me that this metaphor might apply to my life story.  It is my natural preference to examine things analytically, my own life included.  How am I built?  How did my past create the patterns that I see in my mind now?  Who in my past did I learn my habits from?  I still think that there is something to gain from this approach, not in the least being gaining some sense of distance or detachment from my own patterns.  But what about this other approach?  What happens when I allow my life to actively engage me in conversation?  What message is my life speaking to me when I give up a safe position of control and listen attentively?


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