I’m a speed reader. I skim and scan and tear through text, whether it’s a blog post, a magazine article or a novel. Blogging, tweeting, texting, Facebooking and Internet surfing have all exacerbated that tendency.
The problem, of course, is that my speed-reading has carried over to the Bible, too. I find myself skimming it, reading it just to get through it so I can move on to other items on my to-do list. Or, worse, reading whole paragraphs while simultaneously obsessing over the fact that the wet laundry sat in the washer all night. I’m not thinking about God. I’m thinking about mildewy underwear.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Benedict’s advice to “listen with the ear of your heart” – a kind of deep, attentive listening for God’s presence in your daily life. One way to do that, says Benedict, is through a close reading of Scripture, called lectio divina – literally translated from Latin as “divine reading.”
I admit that I have to work at this, and I don’t always do it very well. I have Bible Attention Deficit Disorder. That said, lectio divina is a valuable practice, and I’d like to think I’m getting better at it.
Here are some tips for practicing lectio divina (there are a few different methods – this is one I’ve tweaked a bit here and there so that it works for me):
1. Choose a very short passage (just a few verses) in the Bible, and read them through several times. If you are just beginning lectio, you might start with the Psalms, the Gospels or Paul’s letters – don’t head straight for Revelation or Leviticus or you’ll throw in the towel after 30 seconds flat.
2. Read the verses aloud– usually I whisper, because I’m the self-conscious type, even when I’m the only one home. While I’m reading, I try to listen closely for words or phrases that jump off the page or seem to speak to where I am or the challenges I am facing at the moment.
3. Write it – If something resonates, I jot those particular words or phrases in my journal, as well as my reaction to them. This is not eloquent prose. Usually I don’t even write in complete sentences. It’s simply a stream-of-consciousness reaction from the heart.
4. Mull over it – I try to take a word or phrase from Scripture and carry it with me throughout the day, repeating it to myself like a mantra while I’m driving the kids to school or emptying the dishwasher. I like the way even a single, small piece of Scripture can inform my daily life.
Don’t fret if you don’t have a dramatic epiphany during lectio divina. It’s not perfect or foolproof, and there will be days when you simply can’t move beyond your obsession over the wet laundry. I’ve had a couple lectio lightning bolt moments, but they are few and far between. Mostly this practice simply helps to remind me that God is indeed present in my everyday life.
Do you practice lectio divina? If so, what are some tips that work for you?