Living and Breathing
As we draw ever closer to the end of the semester I have found myself extremely busy with reading, homework, tests, and papers. As this is my second year of college, I thought I would have been better prepared for the last few weeks...but once again I have been humbled by procrastination and a desire to focus on things less important. But while I had a little free time (and by free time I mean time where I don't feel like doing work) I thought I would write about one of the classes I have endured during this spring semester.
The one Bible class that I am taking this semester, which will ultimately open up my schedule to all the other Bible classes offered at my school, has been quite a difficult course. My professor likes to call it a tunnel in which he is our fearless guide. During this expedition for ethereal knowledge my fellow explorers and I, being led by an 80-something-year-old Bible professor, crawl through various caverns of canonical quandaries, weave between stalagmites of scholarly articles and Bible commentaries, and dive into the eternal depths of God's Word. My professor always takes the time to make a special point at the end of each lecture with his favorite phrase,
"We're almost out gang!"
I'm not entirely sure why, but all I can think whenever he utters those words is the main guy in The Shawshank Redemption crawling through the prison sewage pipes, trying to find the freedom he so desperately desires. I have found this to be similar to my time in this class. There were many times when I did not think I was going to make it, not because of the difficulty of the material but the supposed absence of application. There was even a time about a month ago when I thought about withdrawing from the class and taking it online during the summer where I would be able to dedicate myself to it completely. But as I thought more about it, I figured I would stick it out and see it through to the end, despite my fear of not learning anything.
The purpose of this class is to foster and then develop a deep appreciation and understanding of the Bible in it's entirety. In order to produce such a result, it is necessary to assign several different books to assist the new Bible scholar learning the complexities and nuances of the Bible. In other words, my professor gave us five books filled with unpronounceable words and indiscernible methods used to study the Bible. We were no longer sitting in a Sunday School class. There were new things to worry about such as the theological presuppositions and assumptions of the author or the Apostle Paul's use of rhetoric in Romans. We were far from the days in church where all we had to worry about was was not getting pinched for sleeping.
Five books, an entire folder of worksheets, and several in-depth lectures on the methodology used to study the Bible later, you can now find me in my last week of this Bible class. As of right now, I am currently working on a commentary over III John that will most likely surpass 40 pages. I never would have thought fifteen verses could hold enough information to produce 40 pages let alone entire volumes of material. But that is what I have come to expect when reading through God's very revelation to the world and myself.
The course description included on my syllabus reads:
"This course provides the student with the knowledge and abilities necessary for the lifelong habit of studying the Word of God."
I can fully admit that at certain times during the semester I felt like the Bible had become a textbook. It felt like any other book I had ever used for the number of classes I had taken. It became a check-mark on my homework app and nothing else. It did not feel like the living and timeless Word of God. It just felt like a book filled with the answers to my homework questions. But as I became more open to the idea that my professor was actually trying to teach me something, I soon began to see significance in the assignments and readings I was expected to complete. Take this for example:
The project that takes the place of my final exam is a commentary over the fifteen verses in III John where I will systematically take apart and analyze nearly every word of the book. Almost all of my assignments leading up to the final commentary have included a special instruction stating, No detail is trivial!
As I have read over the text countless times, one would think that the details and verses of this book would have grown old and boring, but that could not be more incorrect. Instead, my appreciation for every word, every detail, and every punctuation mark has only been magnified the more times I read through the book. Such an in-depth study of Scripture reveals so much more than what we are able understand from a quick skimming or even what we hear preached in an hour-long sermon. True study of the Bible is wholly reliant on the heart's intention for reading.
When we look at the Bible as a textbook, we will only find it filled with hard-to-pronounce names, historical facts, and people that died a long time ago. There is no possibility of a personal connection with anyone or anything mentioned in it. But when we look at the Bible as a living and breathing revelation, the very words of God compiled for us, truth will be revealed and lives will be changed. We will feel the fear the disciples felt as a storm slowly enclosed around them. We will feel the anguish and brokenness Jesus felt as he was nailed to a tree. We will feel the burning of our hearts just as the two followers of Jesus on the road to Emmaus felt when they were speaking with the resurrected Christ.
The Bible is not a textbook and I am learning more each day that it is relevant to my life even when I may not be able to understand how it applies. Take the time to read it and let God speak to you through His word. No verse is trivial, no detail is too insignificant.
"I have heard of one who said that the dust on some men's Bibles lay there so thick and long that you might write "Damnation" on it.