Monday, November 29, 2010

Soaking in Scripture: Spiritual Formation through Lectio Divina, part 5

The goal of lectio divina is that we would become saturated with God’s Word. We want our minds, our attitudes and our actions to be steeped in Scripture. As we do so, our lives will be transformed from the inside out.

The Whole Person

While lectio divina is not the only way to spend time in the Bible, it is a great way to integrate Scripture with our lives. If you are acquainted with the categories of the Myers-Briggs Temperament Inventory, you will recognize how lectio divina utilizes four different faculties. Reading/hearing Scripture engages our sensory (S) powers of seeing and hearing. Meditation involves our thinking (T). Prayer opens our feelings (F). Contemplation engages our intuitive side (N).

For each person, one or two of these activities comes easily, and one or two is usually difficult. Some of us are good at thinking but not so comfortable with our intuition. Lectio divina invites us to keep these in balance. We enjoy the rhythms that come naturally, and we work at the ones that come harder. By doing so, we keep our heart and our heads together, engaging both in our walk with the Lord.

Preparation: Silencio
In the daily practice of lectio divina, it is helpful to prepare ourselves to center on God’s Word. Often we need to quiet our minds and turn off the incessant “to do” list. We need to still our souls and intentionally create some inner silence if we want to hear God’s still, small voice speaking to us.

In his book, Invitation to a Journey, Robert Mulholland refers to this preparatory step as silencio (pp. 112-113). As well as quieting our noisy thoughts, silencio entails cultivating an attitude of submission. I am not in control of the passage; rather, I am going to let God’s Word control me. Therefore I approach his Word in humility and submissiveness, open to hear what he wants to say to me and ready to obey, no matter the cost.

The words “silent” and “listen” have the same six letters in them. The reality is that they are two sides of the same coin. On the one side, I become silent. On the other side, I am then ready to listen.

Finally, after our time in lectio divina, we need to live out—to flesh out—what God has spoken to us. Mulholland aptly calls this step of application Incarnatio. Here we incarnate—put into flesh--what the Lord has directed us through his Word. “The whole focus of spiritual reading is to encounter God in ways that enable God to transform our being and doing in the world,” affirms Mulholland (p. 115).

Fleshing out our Bible reading can mean many different things. It may entail doing something that we have failed to do, or it may mean that we stop an action that is hurtful. Incarnatio might entail a change of attitude or nurturing very different thoughts in our heads. If for years we have felt neglected by God, Incarnatio might entail nurturing thoughts of God’s loving embrace and never-failing presence. Such application is the fruit borne from soaking in God’s Word.

Just Do It
My prayer is that you would be spending time in God’s Word. If you are not really soaking in Scripture—or if your Bible reading seems to be disconnected from your life as a whole—I’d encourage you to try the rhythms of lectio divina so that your life, your thoughts, your attitudes and your actions can be saturated in God’s Word.

I pray that you would soak in God’s Word and allow it to permeate your heart and mind throughout the day. May you treasure your time with the Lord and be renewed by his presence as you are “being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Further Reading
Here are some good books on lectio divina. There are many more works available on the subject, but these are a good place to begin.

-Casey, Michael. Sacred Reading: The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina. Liguori, MO: Ligouri/Triumph, 2001.
-Davis, Ellen F. and Richard B. Hays, eds. The Art of Reading Scripture. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003.
-Dyck, Elmer, ed. The Act of Bible Reading: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Biblical Interpretation. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996.
-Hall, Thelma. Too Deep for Words: Rediscovering Lectio Divina. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1988.
-Mulholland, M. Robert. Shaped by the Word: The Power of Scripture in Spiritual Formation. Revised Edition. Nashville: The Upper Room, 2000.
-Pennington, M. Basil. Lectio Divina: Renewing the Ancient Practice of Praying the Scriptures. New York: Crossroad, 1998.
-Resseguie, James L. Spiritual Landscape: Images of the Spiritual Life in the Gospel of Luke. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2004.

© 2010 Glenn E. Myers

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