Monday night we sat on the couch, me drinking tea slash eating dark chocolate and writing my Thankful Tuesday post while Chris read. My husband interrupted my train of thought to read a section from his ongoing savoring of our beloved Dale Bruner commentary on Matthew 1-12:
“Together, Mark and Matthew give us a colorful (Markan) and a catechetical (Matthean) portrait of Jesus and the way Jesus works. Mark is technicolor gospel; Matthew black and white. Mark is Luther; Matthew is Calvin. I think of Mark as young, more joyful than Matthew, and in some senses even more evangelical (rather Lutheran). I think of Matthew as more serious, and as most concerned that we live moral lives worthy of the grace of Jesus Christ (rather Reformed, Calvinist, or Presbyterian. Each has a place in the church. Mark without Matthew might be light; Matthew without Mark might be heavy. Together, young and old, happy and serious, evangelical and moral, they give us the full Jesus Christ. (Luke adds social and John spiritual dimensions. Luke is Methodist; John is Orthodox, Catholic, or Episcopalian; and Acts is Baptist, Pentecostal, or Free Church, except in its doctrine of the baptism of the Holy Spirit!)”
Chris and I both agree that Dale Bruner is just about the cutest thing we’ve ever read. (I mean cute in the, Oh! I wish you were my sweet yet clever great uncle! sort of way.) He is also brilliant and kind-hearted in his reading of scripture. I never leave his explanations of the Bible burdened. Instead I’m always grateful, reminded of Christ’s love for me, reminded of grace.
Chris said to me, “I feel like Dale Bruner and the Bible are friends.”
I laughed. Of course they’re friends! Of course the Bible would want to hang out with him! How else could Bruner see such an ecumenical picture of the New Testament? I love Bruner’s explanation of these books, the foundation of our faith (which we Christians have such a hard time agreeing on). I thought about my own tendencies toward the Arts and liturgy and contemplative prayer. And then I considered the fact that the book of John is hands down my favorite of the gospels. John is so dramatic and long-winded and deep. Of course he’d be the Episcopalian/Catholic!
So I keep thinking today of my husband’s words. What does it mean to be friends with the Bible? Am I friends with the Bible?
As a child I lived in awe and respect of the Bible. Sometimes in fear. I believed every interpretation of scripture I heard spoken from the pulpit and I began reading it on my own, daily, as a sixth grader. (A sixth grader! Sometimes I still can’t believe that.) Scripture informed every part of my life and at points in high school the Bible began to hold mysteries (Oh, Song of Songs. Ah, Isaiah!) that had never been explained away by my Sunday School teachers.
When I got to college the mysteries got bigger and began to bleed over into everything I felt I already knew about the Bible. My acceptance of mystery turned into a whole lot of questions. Then doubt. Then came adulthood.
Maybe becoming friends with the Bible is circular. I’ve spent the past ten years of my life working past the doubt and entering back into the depth of worship I find in mystery. Isn’t it funny how mystery can both lead to doubt and then be its own antidote to it? I don’t feel burdened by my unanswered questions in scripture as much anymore because my experience of Jesus is richer and more gentle than any side’s passionate defense of their stance. I used to argue theology. I used to cry over lines drawn in the ecumenical sand. Now, I tend toward some directions. I know where my orthodoxy causes me to land on certain issues. But, I’ve found rest in Jesus, who loves a lot more than he draws lines. And sometimes, mystery is good for relationships.
There are moments now when I’m reading the Psalms when every word is magic and God’s presence around me is soft cotton. There are moments in Paul’s letters when I squirm uncomfortably and ramble out a “help me with this” prayer, then move on.
All my husband said was one sentence. A statement about a scholar. But it’s left me wondering: How does a girl like me, a woman whose love for the Bible is deep and central to my life, who continues to get stung by that same book’s prickly sharp words…How does a girl like me offer out my hand to it? How do I say, “I don’t want to read you and tremble. I don’t want to read you and scoff. I want to sit with you the way I do my dearests across the table: share some pumpkin bread and latte. I want to be your friend.”
What about you? Is the Bible your friend?