I con­tin­ue to pon­der Math­ew the Poor’s teach­ing con­cern­ing the impor­tance of reit­er­a­tion and rumi­na­tion on the Holy Scrip­ture. Mathew’s thoughts echo a com­mon­place in ancient Chris­t­ian teach­ing and with­in the ancient world in gen­er­al: rep­e­ti­tio mater stu­dio­rum est, a phrase you might have not­ed in ear­li­er blogs of mine. Rep­e­ti­tion is the moth­er of all learn­ing.” Rep­e­ti­tion con­stant­ly recalls; rumi­na­tion chews and chews.

I men­tioned last week that one gad­get I used in learn­ing to reit­er­ate and rumi­nate was my iPod. I now use my iPhone, but what I do is pret­ty much the same as my iPod prac­tices. For exam­ple, late­ly I’ve felt led to lis­ten repeat­ed­ly to the prophets. 

So, this morn­ing I got up, made some cof­fee, fed Pon­cho — the dog we have inher­it­ed from my son Nathan — and head­ed into the liv­ing room. I sat down in my favorite chair, a chair that is com­fort­able and helps me focus my atten­tion, began drink­ing my cof­fee, and turned on my iPhone. 

I have the entire Bible on my phone, nar­rat­ed by Max McLean. Some­what sleep­i­ly, I began lis­ten­ing to Isa­iah 6 – 9. I’ve been doing so for a while. I’m in no rush. As I lis­ten repeat­ed­ly to the text I sense good things are hap­pen­ing. Isaiah’s mind and heart are open­ing to me. What is impor­tant to Isa­iah — jus­tice for the poor, for exam­ple — are increas­ing­ly impor­tant to me. My per­spec­tive is chang­ing. And, of course, God is speak­ing through Isa­iah. A kind of three-way con­ver­sa­tion is occur­ring, ini­ti­at­ed and led by the Holy Spirit. 

As I read and lis­ten to the Scrip­ture, the ana­lyt­ic side of my brain is still active. My mind is pro­cess­ing infor­ma­tion, ana­lyz­ing syn­tax, fol­low­ing argu­ments, think­ing through metaphors and illus­tra­tions and trac­ing key themes. After years of read­ing texts — Chris­t­ian and oth­er­wise — I can’t pre­vent these ingrained habits from kick­ing in; they are key aspects of the dis­ci­pline of study. 

Yet if I only employ the dis­ci­pline of study in my read­ing of Scrip­ture, a spir­i­tu­al dis­ci­pline that entails a pur­pose­ful dis­tanc­ing of the read­er from the bib­li­cal text to facil­i­tate an analy­sis of its con­tent, my read­ing will fall short of its ulti­mate pur­pose. The goal of my read­ing is more than infor­ma­tion gath­er­ing and analy­sis. Ever deep­en­ing trans­for­ma­tion into the image of Christ is what I’m ulti­mate­ly seek­ing. If so, my study must be sup­ple­ment­ed by anoth­er kind of read­ing, the reit­er­a­tion, rumi­na­tion, and rep­e­ti­tion that Math­ew the Poor recommends. 

Let’s return to my expe­ri­ence of lis­ten­ing to Isa­iah on my iPhone. As I repeat­ed­ly lis­ten to the text, I’m using my ears to read” the text rather than my eyes. As I reflect on the dynam­ics of my lis­ten­ing, a verb I men­tioned last week comes to mind: to seep. Isa­iah is seep­ing ever more deeply into me, fil­ter­ing through my mind into my heart; Isaiah’s prophet­ic voice is address­ing both my intel­lect and my affec­tions, my mind and my heart. His words are per­co­lat­ing with­in me, much like the bub­bling of hot water up through cof­fee grains. 

The water seeps through the grains, flows back to the bot­tom of the cof­fee pot, and then bub­bles up through the grains again. The metaphor of per­co­la­tion points to the rich soak­ing that occurs in reit­er­a­tion and rumi­na­tion. As I lis­ten to the text of Scrip­ture I’m not sim­ply gath­er­ing infor­ma­tion for a future ser­mon or book. Rather, there is a water­ing, an irri­gat­ing, a soak­ing or immer­sion of my mind and heart that study helps to facil­i­tate, but is clear­ly dif­fer­ent from study itself. 

Many of you are famil­iar with this slow, paced, immer­sive read­ing of Scrip­ture. It’s often referred to as lec­tio div­ina or divine read­ing.” We’ll take a clos­er look at this won­der­ful dis­ci­pline next week. 

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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