I love the Bible

It is said that after Jacob wrestled with God, he walked with a limp.

So it has been with the Bible and me.

I have wrestled with the Bible, and it has left me with a limp.

But I am glad. I am glad because this limp has slowed me down a bit. It has humbled me. It has forced me to stop running so fast and sure down the path of certainty that I forget to listen, to pay attention, to ask questions, to build altars, to wait.

I have wrestled, and I love the Bible more now than I have ever loved it before. I love it more than when I demanded that it answer all of my questions, more than when I forced it to fit my cultural categories, more than when I tried so desperately to make it all resolve, more than when I pretended like it never bothered me.

I have wrestled with the Bible. I have spoken my fears out loud—about the genocidal conquests in Canaan, about the slaves, about the “untouchables,” about the seven days, about the concubines and sister wives, about the instructions on silence and submission and head coverings. I have lived in the tension, and I live in it still.

I have wrestled with the Bible, and, try as I may. I cannot make it in my own image.  I cannot cram it into an adjective, or force it into a blueprint, or fashion it into a weapon to be used against my political and theological enemies. It simply will not be tamed.

But oh, how I have tried to tame it!

Because a blueprint would be easier.

Because a to-do list would be easier.

Because  an inspirational desk calendar would be easier.

Because an affirmation of everything I already believe would be easier.

But the Bible is not a blueprint. It isn’t a list of bullet points to be followed or a to-do list to be obeyed. It can’t be crammed into an adjective or forced into a theology.

No, the Bible is a sacred collection of letters and laws, stories and songs, prophecies and proverbs, philosophy and poems, spanning thousands of years and multiple cultures, written by dozens of authors and inspired by God.  It is teeming with metaphor and imagery, tension and contrast.  It defies our every effort at systemization. It defies our every attempt at mastery.  Indeed, it forces us into community—with God and with one another—precisely because it is difficult to understand, precisely because it was never meant to be read alone.

Differences in interpretation should not lead us to question one another's passion or commitment to Scripture, but rather invite us into conversation with the shared assumption that we are all struggling toward truth, all trying to figure it out. 

Those of us who have wrestled know that no one's interpretation is inerrant.   Those of us who have wrestled know we can be wrong.

I love the Bible more now than ever before because I have finally surrendered to God’s stories.

God’s long, strange, beautiful stories.

We asked questions.

God told stories.

We demanded answers.

God told stories.

We argued theology.

God told stories.

And when those stories weren’t enough, when the words themselves would not suffice, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, laughed among us, wept among us, ate among us, told more stories among us, suffered among us, died among us, and rose among us. The Word entered our story and invited us into His.

The Word became flesh and said, “Watch me. Follow me.  See how I do it. This is what I desire.”

And the Word loved—

Loved the poor,

Loved the rich,

Loved the sick,

Loved the hungry,

Loved the zealots,

Loved the tax-collectors, 

Loved the lepers,

Loved the soldiers,

Loved the foreigners,

Loved the insiders,

Loved the slaves,

Loved the women,

Loved the untouchables,

Loved the religious,

Loved the favored,

Loved the forgotten.

Loved even the enemy.

When words were not enough, the Word took on flesh and became the story.

I love the Bible, but I love it best when I love it for what it is, not what I want it to be…when I live in the tension and walk with the limp—

The limp that slows me down,

The limp that delights my critics, 

The limp I wouldn’t change for the world,

The limp that led me to God.

 

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