I wonder if people get or send love letters anymore. In our age of email, Facebook, instant messages and texts to our phones, does anyone sit down to write a love letter? Does anyone take the time to think and deliberately formulate their thoughts towards another that expresses their deepest love and desire for deep relationship? Do we mediate on the merits of our relationship and express them so that that special person understands us and our intent? I still remember way back in 8th or 9th grade getting a letter from a girl I had met at summer camp. It smelled of perfume. It had a big, lipstick SWAK (sealed with a kiss) on the back of the envelope and, I must confess, it made this young man’s heart race just a bit. You can bet that I kept that letter for many years afterwards. (Of course, it was thrown away after I got married.) A love letter – it seems to me that we have lost the art of communicating our heart like that.
I would suggest to you that it IS possible to read a love letter written to each and every one of us. A love letter that expresses the heart of the Special One toward us. A letter that reveals the fullness of His heart toward us and the extent of His desire to make a relationship with Him possible. I am speaking, of course, about the Bible.
When I became a Christian in high school, I was quickly introduced to the idea of Bible study. I was taught the mechanism for studying a passage of scripture. I was instructed in the practices that every “good” Christian should follow regarding Bible study and memorization. And while I appreciate the goal of that instruction and learned a great deal of the Bible, I learned very little about the Writer.
The Bible provides us with God’s very own words. It gives us insight into the very nature of God Himself, his creation and his will. It reveals our nature and our need for relationship with God. It is our source of joy, comfort, strength, truth, guidance, spiritual nutrition, life and wisdom. The problem is that often times it seems to be a struggle to maintain a vibrant practice of reading the Bible. I know that was true for me for a very long time. Why is that? I think that part of the problem is that we have made reading the Bible a duty. And dull one at that. It becomes a source of shame and guilt when we don’t have a “daily devotional time.” Or we feel inadequate if we don’t understand some passage or memorize large portions of Scripture. Bible study has become a “work of righteousness” by which we judge the effectiveness or worth of our Christian life.
That is just plain wrong and unfortunate. I think that if we really understand God’s intent in giving us the Scriptures it will help us discover the excitement that comes with entering into His Word and experiencing His voice there. When we set aside all the baggage that we have accumulated over the years in connection with the Bible, we arrive at a destination full of life-giving rest and refreshment. To do this we need to learn the art of simply reading the Scriptures as God’s love letter to us. It means letting the voice of God expressed in Scripture wash over us. It means allowing the words to soak into our hearts instead of rattling around in our brains. We approach the Scriptures as a love letter from our Heavenly Lover who is expressing His faithfulness and unfailing love to us in the pages of His book. When we start looking for those words of affirmation and His “now” message to us, it radically transforms our life.
So practically what does that look like? Here is my approach. I have learned to read the Bible slowly without being in a hurry to get through a particular Bible passage or finish a reading schedule. I read until the Holy Spirit prompts me to linger over a particular verse (or verses). I read over that passage many times, re-reading it over the next several days. I think about it throughout my day and let it simmer. The goal here is not to master the text but to let the text master you. I am not simply gathering information about God, but asking Him to personalize His word to me, letting the Spirit “hover” over my heart as He speaks the words of His book to me. Then I wait until He releases me to move on and I start the process over again.
In Psalm 119:76-77, David says, “ O may Your lovingkindness comfort me, According to Your word to Your servant. May Your compassion come to me that I may live, For Your law is my delight.” When reading the Bible becomes a chore, we need to step back and ask ourselves why. Ask yourself, what happened that makes reading the Bible so difficult or dry. Then with David ask Him to show you that His Word really can be a source of delight. His Word to you is a personal love letter with a great big SWAK on the cover.