Tools of the Trade: Lectio Divina (Breath and Ink)

ToolofTradeTools of the Trade is a monthly feature in which Paul attempts to participate in some kind of spiritual activity for an entire month. You can read his initial post about this month’s tool here.

It turns out that Lectio Divina is one of the most manic spiritual practices I’ve ever tried. Some days it’s like words written thousands of years ago are careening through time desperate to deliver their message. Other days it feels like you’re reading someone else’s grocery list; despite the reminders it may give you to stock your own cupboards, it’s still doesn’t make for a particularly notable find.

All in all, I’m pleased to report that Lectio worked out better than Meditation did last month. That might be because the very first time I opened my Bible to try Lectio, God had rigged it to explode in a burst of fiery awesome.

If you follow the blog at all, you’re probably aware of my struggles with the place I work. I’ve been looking for work for a long time. May seventh was a Tuesday. Specifically, it was the Tuesday that came after being rejected for a job that I had really wanted. Work that day had been particularly frustrating, and I was a bundle of grumpy, jangled nerves. Leah had been doing an excellent job being supportive, but my negativity was starting to get old. She pointed out that my attitude could use an adjustment, and I agreed. I decided to go try Lectio for the first time and clear my head.

An aside: In Bible College, we’re taught that in order to properly read the Bible, you need to understand the full context of each scripture. In this way, you’re more likely to understand the intended message of the passage. In Lectio Divina, however, you are supposed to throw caution to the wind and simply read until something strikes you. I decided during the course of this month to “go for broke” in terms of employing bad Bible reading habits, and simply opened the Bible to random pages and began reading.

On May seventh, mere days after being rejected for a job I was really interested in, after a crappy day at work, I shoved my thumb into my Bible and began reading out of Luke 12.

Do Not Worry

22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life[b]? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

Verse 24 is what got me. That day “Consider the Ravens” was the piece of scripture that I chose to hold on to. Given that day’s context, I felt like it was  God reminding me that he’s got this. All I can do is keep looking, keep applying. The rest is up to him.

And that’s the power of Lectio Divina. It forces you to look at scripture in the context of your own life. You’re not looking for something to build a thesis on, simply some words that might lend you some peace or comfort or direction. It’s not about being smart or well-read. It’s not about being studious. It’s about listening to the spirit for what you need to hear. That day, I needed to Consider the Ravens.

The very next day I got a phone call asking if I was still interested in another position I applied for previously. I had an interview that Friday. Later that same afternoon, the position was offered to me.

I’d love to tell you that every experience was that awesome. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. Several times the scriptures I opened to were dry and lacking in anything that truly resonated with me. Most of the time, maybe all the time, really, it never felt like I was doing anything particularly spiritual. It never really felt like I was entering into the “divine mystery”. Mostly it felt like me, reading weird and random Bible scriptures.

But damned if the little bastards didn’t get me to thinking .

Even on the days when the reading was dry, I found myself able to glean something from them. An idea, a thought, a word. Each day I read, I pulled out my sentence. And each of those sentences are like a writing prompt; open ended and begging to be explored in greater detail.

So, after a month of Lectio, will I continue the practice? Absolutely, but I don’t know that I see it being a daily thing. Something about doing it every day somehow stole the “magic” from the process. Personally, I like Lectio as something to be savored. I would prefer it to be like an occasional rich dessert rather than meat and potatoes.

But it did lead me to an interesting question… If the point of Lectio is to truly examine something and pay attention to how it affects our spirit… What if we were to examine something other than scripture? What might God have to say through one of Neruda’s sonnets? How might he speak through a painting? What would he have to say if you examined the grain in a piece of wood? I don’t know… But I think it’s about time I find out.

Paul Paul Allen is the editor of Hunting for God. After growing up in an Assemblies of God church, he attended Johnson Bible College for two years before dropping out. In the time since, he has more or less figured out the whole “adulthood” thing, gotten married, and holds a steady job by day and writes movie scripts by night. He currently resides in Knoxville, Tennessee with his wife Leah and two cats, Ego and Karma. HfG on FB

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One response to “Tools of the Trade: Lectio Divina (Breath and Ink)

  1. As something of a contemplative, I really enjoy the discipline of lectio divina…I still have times of studiously pouring over the Scriptures, but I find lectio a more relevant-for-daily-use kind of thing. As a therapist, my head is FULL of psychological theories, treatment plans, resources and perpetual research used in my counseling practice…it’s better for me to have a word or a phrase that I can easily remember, draw from, and ponder in my moments in between clients or “down time.”

    Glad you tried it out…I always find God in the midst of ANY of the spiritual disciplines…but since “affirming words” is my primary love language, this one has a really great impact.

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