“Only take care, son of man, that you don’t rebel like these rebels. Open your mouth and eat what I give you.” When I looked he had his hand stretched out to me, and in the hand a book, a scroll. He unrolled the scroll. On both sides, front and back, were written lamentations and mourning and doom. He told me, “Son of man, eat what you see. Eat this book. Then go and speak to the family of Israel.” As I opened my mouth, he gave me the scroll to eat, saying, “Son of man, eat this book that I am giving you. Make a full meal of it!” So I ate it. It tasted so good—just like honey. [Ezekiel 2:9-3:3 (MSG)]
Several years ago, our church pews were stocked with chocolate kisses. During his message, the pastor asked us to quickly eat one. Since it was close to meal time, we all quite happily accommodated him. He then asked us to do it again, but slowly—to unwrap the candy gradually, enjoy its aroma before placing it between our lips, and to savor the texture and flavor as it gradually melted in our mouths. Since this was church and not a chocolate tasting, our pastor went on to compare our two experiences with the way we can read the Bible. He suggested that we need to be as mindful in our Bible reading as we were in the second candy-eating experience.
Are we as unaffected by reading the Bible as we are by a quick bite of candy or do those words actually touch and change us? We should delight in God’s Word the way we would a piece of Godiva chocolate, an excellent vintage Cabernet, or a juicy ripe peach. His word should dissolve into our lives and impact the way we live. The Slow Food movement tries to bring mindfulness to the table, pointing out that we can simply consume food and be done or dine and have an experience! Although both will provide calories, only one will be memorable and affect us. We need to bring that sort of mindfulness to our Bible reading as well.
Lectio Divina (Latin for “divine reading”) is a fancy term for treating scripture not just as a text to be read but as the living Word of God. Not being Benedictine monks, we could think of it as the Slow Bible Movement. Instead of quickly scarfing down verses, let’s slowly savor the words we read. Let’s reread them, ponder them and find something that speaks directly to us and then respond to it. That response then leads us to contemplation and prayer as the verses sink into us. In the Slow Bible Movement, we relish what we’ve read and allow it to refresh and renew us as we carry God’s word forward in our hearts.
In Ezekiel’s vision, God fed him a scroll filled with His message for the Israelites. Even though the scroll was filled with words of sadness, they were as sweet as honey to the prophet because they were God’s words. What food is to our bodies, God’s Word is to our souls; we can’t live without either one. Moreover, like Ezekiel, we’ll never be able to share the message of God’s Good News until we’ve consumed it and allowed it to change our lives. We can gulp or savor, the choice is ours.