The second paper I wrote this semester was for a class that dealt with hermeneutics and ecclesiology (discovering biblical meaning within the context of a faith community). We talked a lot about transformational discourse. I wrote many wonderful words on the topic, but when talking about transformation, watch out! It just might sneak up and bite you in the butt! At two points in this course, it did. Here are my 'Ouch!' moments.
1. We were assigned a reading from Thomas Aquinas, The Ten Articles to be exact. I had read them before and had not found them that interesting. A bit hard to follow, honestly, and cold and scientific. I like a bit more passion with my theology. But before I read Aquinas this time, I read an article by a guy named Candler who talked about Thomas and his work. Wow! This guy loved Aquinas and went on and on about the great stuff to be found in Thomas. Really? By the end of the article, I realised that I had been missing a lot of the gems in Aquinas due to my prejudice. I decided to change my stinky attitude, give Aquinas another chance, and read "Ten Articles" again with fresh eyes. Candler was right. There was a lot of warmth beneath the surface when I bothered to look for it.
I can tell when someone loves what they are reading or studying. They speak of it with passion, they engage with it at a personal level as well as at an intellectual level, they are able to be patient with its peculiarities, and because of this, the insights they discover are often rich and the questions they ask lead them to further discovery. Pride was what had stopped up my ears to Thomas' voice. Love was the amplifier that helped me to hear him more clearly.
2. The second time came for me during the second last class. Everyone was being asked to offer some point that had resonated with them in the course or something they had learned. I had my prepared paragraph before me, stocked with fine words about unity and its attractiveness, but while a classmate was speaking, a sort of veil was removed from my eyes. I saw that I was being offered the opportunity to pursue unity with this group of people. It was something much stronger than being friendly as classmates; it was an invitation to receive them into my life.
I balked slightly at the thought because I knew how difficult it would be to truly commune with people from so many different backgrounds and beliefs and with such varied personalities. I felt a bit naked, and I could sense my integrity being challenged. I wrote in my journal, “I am drawn to unity [and] can write wonderful words about it, but am I up for it? Engaging requires that I go over there and make a friend…instead of deciding that I am not ‘into it’ and it is ‘not my thing.’ It is costly to engage."
Yep. Transformation is expensive stuff. I can't study things like love and truth and unity in a sterile lab or through an objective research paper. I have to be willing to be the subject of the research. Introducing subjectivity means that I need to touch the truth that I am trying to learn.
Here are some quotes from my paper on how this applies to interacting with the Bible:
When I find myself getting frustrated with what I encounter in the scriptures, whether at the apparent lack of detail, the confusing multiplicity, or the vagueness of the language, then I need to step into that place of confession and humility again and let truth judge me instead of the other way around. If we think we have tamed truth, mastered truth, we are deceived.
The Bible invites the reader to jump into its pages and live with the characters and the words that can be found there in order to walk through her own life with greater wisdom and humility. It is a book that is meant to get a bit dirty as we drag it with us through the mucky mud of the pits and valleys that we come across and wade through the murky waters of uncertainty and doubt that swirl about our knees. This is not a holy book in the sense that we cannot touch it. It is a holy book because it can help us see holiness if we will make ourselves subject to its powerful story of love.
This is a photo of crab tree blossoms from our front yard in St-Lazare.