It’s funny the way things come back to you, filtering through the passing of years. I was reading a beautiful piece of writing today about an otter and then I realised I had hurried on to the next page without taking time to truly savour what I had just read. All of a sudden words came to mind of the depute rector at my school; words I heard him quote at least 40 years ago. His name was Mr. Dal. It is only looking back that I realise more fully what I half noticed at the time, namely that he had a thoughtfulness and a genuine concern for his pupils. I am recalling for example how after I shared with him the sense of call to ministry he said something to me and something to my parents. To me he said, “Well, you may never be rich but you will be happy.” To my parents, behind my back as it were, he expressed the concern that I was too shy and sensitive to be able to cope with being a minister. I think he was right in what he said. I have been happy in my calling as a minister, especially these last 11 years, and yes, I have had to learn to marry my sensitivity and shyness to all that was demanded of me as a parish minister. I have developed a thicker skin while somehow keeping my heart sensitive. God is faithful. When He calls, He equips.
Anyway, words came to mind that Mr. Dal used one Morning Assembly. It is a well known quote, but I don’t know who said it. It may be from a Prayer Book that as a Scottish Presbyterian I do not use! I am sure one of you may be able to enlighten us all. He prayed that we would “read, learn and inwardly digest” truth. I think noticing my own hurried reading today made me see how it is possible to “read,” even to “read and learn,” but to stop short of “inwardly digesting” truth, even truth that we know will be life-giving, the truth of the Word of God. Perhaps that explains what was a confusing mystery to me when I was converted as a 13 year old. I looked and saw people who read their bibles a lot, but could not understand why they were as they were!
It takes time for some truths to get into our system. It can be difficult to inwardly digest something that God may be saying to us because it seems to be different food than we are used to. Jesus had to repeat and repeat to His disciples that He was going to Jerusalem, that He would be handed over, mistreated and killed. When He talked about His death, even when He talked in the same breath of His rising from the dead it simply did not compute for these disciples. This was food they found it difficult to digest… but He kept feeding them the same truth anyway. Eventually, perhaps at different rates of time for each, they got it!
Somewhere on the edges of your awareness are you aware of God saying something to you, or saying something to you repeatedly? It may be something you need to hear but cannot fully believe. It may be something that contradicts something that you have aways thought. It may be a promise or a warning. Next time this truth comes your way, take time to catch hold of it, to inwardly digest it.
You could begin to learn to do that by taking a fresh look at how you read the Bible. Do you read it and quickly move on to the next chapter as I did this morning while reading about the otter? I love Psalm 1. It tells us the sort of thing I am writing to you about here; the blessedness of truly receiving the Word of God. Think about these words today. (I am quoting the psalm in the Authorised Version. It may not be the most politically correct version, but I love the sound of its language. If its “male” language offends you…. well, it’s my blog!)
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord: and in His law doth he meditate day and night.
And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither: and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”
A strange thing for a minister to ask, but could it be that God wants you to read your bible every day but to read less of it, to stop hurrying on and missing life-giving truth? This day and every day may you “read, learn and inwardly digest.” “Thank you Mr. Dal, and whoever it was you were quoting.”
PS: If you find attentiveness difficult and find it difficult to stop your mind racing around you may well find help towards developing the meditative side of your being here:
I am finding great blessing through this.
I remember my old boss (a Scottish Episcopalian) scribbling “r, m, l and id” on an article in a financial magazine, much to the puzzlement of myself and my colleague! We had to ask in the end, the “m” stood for “mark” as I recall. I soon forgot the esoteric point of taxation in question but I learned the lesson of “marking” and “digesting” key points.
I remember after first becoming a Christian that reading Psalm 1 was scary!
My eyes seemed always to be drawn to the latter half of the Psalm and that this was me!
Having had the first half of the Psalm pointed out in a prophetic manner and that this applied to me.
My eyes focused on the first half and the belief that it can (in time ) apply to me.
So saying the Psalm from that time on stopped at the end of the first half in order that this truth would embed itself into my depths!
Over I found I could truly believe it more and more.