shifting faith takes its toll in so many ways–changed friendships & relationships, loss of connection & belonging in churches, and disorientation on how we connect with God. so many of the old ways stop working. what used to fill us up now sometimes repels us. what used to feel so comfortable now feels so foreign. i can’t tell you the number of times over the past chunk of years i have tried to grind down on old spiritual practices that used to bring me so much life only to come up empty.
one of the things i am sad about for a lot of us is how our relationship with the Bible, a source of so much life & hope & goodness, has often become twisted & tainted. for all kinds of reasons, some of us have become a little (or a lot!) allergic to it. sometimes when we read it, we have a weird filter that all of the words go through that blocks us from stirring our souls & inspiring love and change. it can cause us to cringe, harden our hearts, to feel cynicism instead of hope.
i often tell people who find themselves extra-allergic to the Bible to take a break from even trying. there are all kinds of ways to engage with God other than the Bible and a healthy separation (just like when a marriage is in trouble) can often provide a space for healing. but what happens when we kind of want to try again? when we feel a stirring to re-engage with the Bible in a way that won’t kick our allergies into full-gear?
this post isn’t for everyone; some of you are feeling great about the Bible and others of you have it safely on the shelf right now to give yourself more time to heal. this post is for those of you who are feeling like maybe it’s time to give something a try again, who miss the beauty & challenge of it, who are wanting to re-connect with it in new ways.
these are some thoughts off the top of my head that have helped me over time. i’d love for you to add yours to the list because the more ideas we have to choose from , the better.
10 ideas to re-engage with the Bible after we’ve become allergic:
1. take one passage we really like or one that comes to mind or gives us hope and meditate on just it for a while. i do this a lot and i remember how much i like certain verses, how much comfort they bring, and that i don’t have to study them, exegete them, put them in their proper context, know the greek word for it for it to do something in my heart.
2. take that same passage and look it up in different versions (i like biblegateway for that).
3. practice lectio divina, which is one of my favorite practices because it takes out “studying” the bible and replaces it with intersecting emotionally with the passage. read it from different angles. notice words. notice feelings. notice soul stirrings. some passages that i like are: psalm 23, psalm 40:1-3, isaiah 43:1-4, isaiah 61:1-4, matthew 5:3-10, colossians 3:12-15, ephesians 3:14-19, luke 15:11-32.
4. read a passage and then re-write it in our own words. there are a lot of different versions by different people, as well as different translations. it’s ok to let yourself be inspired too, and see how it sounds. another thought is to collage it or draw it with images or pictures.
5. read a parable and ask ourselves these questions:
what is a different title for it?
what feelings does it stir up?
what does it tell us about the tendency of human beings?
what does it tell us about our own hearts and lives?
6. after reading something, take some time and journal about it, reflecting on some questions like this:
this passage stirs up these feelings (comfortable, easier ones & harder, more uncomfortable or annoying ones)
originally, i was taught that this passage for sure meant…
i wonder if it could actually mean…
today, it makes me consider…
6. after reading the passage, ask “how does this point me toward loving God more? loving others more? loving myself more?”
7. i know this is a stretch and it can definitely go either way, but for some it might help to imagine reading it for the very first time, before you knew anything or heard anything from a pastor or studied it inductively or…
8. read a psalm and then write one yourself. this are some prompts that can guide us:
God, i am feeling really…
right now, life is…
i long for you to…
i am wondering why..
i am trying to remember that…
i am thankful for…
9. read the passage as if it were being read to a community of people, not just you. rachel held evans had a good post last week that addresses this & we talk about this a lot at the refuge, how the scriptures are communal. what does it call us to together?
10. try just the red letters, the words of Jesus (remembering that he says some pretty tricky and confusing stuff in there, too).
a few words of warning:
let go of expecting God to show up in the ways we were used to. some of the spiritual high i used to experience is truly gone. it’s not that i don’t hear from God or feel my heart stir or feel conviction in a powerful way, but i have come to respect that some of the “high” i used to experience is nowhere to be found. it’s been so helpful (and tricky) to accept that that season is gone for me and had it’s place in my spiritual story. now the question is how can i feel connected to God in new ways.
find the good. any little stirring, any little bit of hope, any open door is a lovely gift.
be gentle with yourself (and maybe God, too). be careful of leaning into shame or “i-shouldn’t-feel-this-way-something’s-wrong-with-me” and trust that healing this allergy takes a long time.
remember it’s okay to find what works, at least for now.
i’d love to hear your thoughts on this and what you’d add to this list!