this message will self-destruct in…

This month, I returned again to Sacred Heart for another retreat. I was struck by many things, but one of them was an innovative and insightful way to approach the Bible. Father Kinerk shared something along these lines (as interpreted by me):

When you are in love with someone, you visit their home to meet their family. While there, you peruse photo albums from your significant other’s past. While perusing, your present conversation is filled with questions, comments, laughter, tears, responses, dialogue, and such. What is most important is not the photo album with its events and images, but the greater connection it fosters in the present with the one you love.

A conversation starter. A connection builder. I like that. It’s healing.

For most of my life, for the most part, I have been a lover of the Bible. I remember vividly excelling in AWANA, memorizing and reciting verses for some arbitrary awards system. I furiously argued with my high school English teacher about differing perspectives on Job when we read it in AP Literature. Throughout the years, I have annotated many Bibles until the marks have become highlights on my heart, then given them away as gifts. I think in Scripture. I credit my love of the Bible to my effective instruction in reading analysis. To this day, nothing warms me so much as sitting down with a twinkling candle, journal, mug of something warm, and my Bible.

But I cannot lie, there are parts of the Bible that make me cringe. I cannot accept any longer the idea that the Bible is a weapon, something to wield to gain oppressive power by knocking the “other” down. In my life, I have been the victim of this abuse. In my life, I have been the perpetrator of this abuse. I also cannot fathom how certain groups cling to the One. Essential. Scripture. that makes or breaks you as a “Christian”…but yet avoid others since they were written to “a different audience” or “for a different purpose.” For an argument to stand, it must stand on both feet, all the time…not just a balancing act when convenient.

All this swims in my head frequently, and sometimes I feel like I am drowning. I do take comfort in other people I respect addressing it in various ways, like here or here.

I also find comfort in other words of literature. I recognize the Bible as “the better story” (Life of Pi) or “the story-truth, not the happening-truth” (The Things They Carried). Father Kinerk, at my retreat, also pointed out how the Bible was never meant to be a factual account told by a reporter. Rather, it is a portrait: a piece of art which captures the essence of the subject by enhancing, detracting, or coloring certain aspects of the subject.

A portrait capturing the essence. I like that. It’s healing.

The bottom line is that it is not about the words, but about the One of whom they speak. It’s not about the answer, it’s about the conversation. It’s not about the truth, it’s about the discovery. It’s not about what’s right, it’s about the relationship.