I am a two-times book reader. If I really enjoy a book you can bet your bottom dollar that I am going to read it again at some point. Right now I am re-reading a novel that I read last year because some worlds, when created in your mind, are irresistible to return to; and every time I go back to one of those worlds I feel more immersed and at home.
Some people can do that with movies. In our community group, we recently asked the question, “If you could only watch two movies for the rest of your life, what would you pick?” The Dark Knight and The Matrix. Done. But then I started thinking that maybe one of those should be a comedy so I have some variety for the rest of my life. Maybe our movie choices should have layers of depth so that we can continually discover something new each time we watch – movies like Inception.
Whether it’s a great movie or a compelling book, I love going back because when I do the story becomes more real. It’s more “mine” than it was before, like a well worn pair of jeans that may be fraying but always fit perfectly. A great story is my currency, and returning to it, thinking about it and processing it over and over makes me feel like I am an observing character written into it. God designed us to be reflective, to be immersed in story, to process and incorporate things into our lives. He says as much in the Bible.
I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways.
There is real power in reflection. It’s the difference between studying a subject for years to know it inside and out and cramming for a test to get a passing grade. One has the power to change your life while the other simply gets you past a present hurdle. The Bible operates on the same principle. There are many people who have found comfort and guidance in the Bible in circumstances that are immediate and pressing: the death of a family member, the loss of a job, the loneliness of an isolated life. God’s word has the power to speak to us in those situations, to get us through and on to the next phase of life, but when God’s word is just used as an occasional pain killer to dull the immediate hurts we all face we are missing out on the greater benefits it has for us.
The Bible is not a book that is simply meant to be read, but reflected on. Just like a great novel, there are nuances and truths that can only come out when we continually return to the source and process what it means for us. Understanding the Bible cannot happen when we approach it like a textbook that you have to muscle through, trying to quickly digest as much content as we possibly can. It comes when we reflect on what God is speaking to us out of his word, no matter how small a passage it may be.
Studying God’s word to pass a test can never change your life. But reflecting on it to be immersed in the world and purpose he has designed for you always will.