Devotion for the Week...
I love to read. I love a good novel, the type of story that completely sucks me in and makes me lose track of the real world because I'm busy living in the world of the story. There are authors that I love to read, and that I know when I start one of their books I will not want to do anything but read until the book is done. A few years ago I had to take a book (by Kristen Heitzmann I think) into my bedroom and leave it there, out of sight during the day, so I wouldn't be tempted to just sit and read when I should have been taking care of my boys!
A really good book pulls me in because I feel everything the main characters are feeling. Really good books give readers details about physical sensations, so a character who is cold might feel it at the tip of her nose, or her fingers, or maybe she pulls her coat closed to try to block the wind. Then, of course, there are the emotions. I have cried my way through more than one of Karen Kingsbury's books,
for example. (Please tell me I'm not the only one! And if you've never
read her books, I highly recommend them.)
The Bible, though, tends to leave out those details. My favourite example has to be Matthew 4:2. Speaking about Jesus, Matthew wrote, "After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry." In all honesty, I always want to laugh when I read that verse, especially if I'm reading it out loud, because it just seems like such an absurd understatement. Of course He was hungry! A novel written today would probably take several sentences to describe the physical sensations caused by His hunger, and the weakness that came from going so long without food. I want to know if Jesus was sitting in the wilderness thinking about the way His mother cooked his favourite food when He was a child, or if He was eyeing the insects and thinking about eating some of them. Actually, I'd love to know what He was thinking about, even if it had nothing to do with food at all.
The lack of detail makes it harder for me to really enter into the stories as I read, and sometimes the tendency is to just read the words and not think deeply about the moment. It's almost like reading a weather report or a recipe...I'm taking in and understanding the words, but there's no deeper connection that makes me engage emotionally with what I'm reading. Sometimes, though, there is something about the story that makes me stop and think, something that makes me imagine the details that aren't recorded.
A couple of weeks ago I read about Jesus praying in the garden of Gethsemane just before He was betrayed by Judas. I read it through in my usual fashion, but then I stopped and stared at one spot on the page. It was the spot between two sentences, and I couldn't stop thinking one thing, "How many minutes passed between these two sentences?"
"Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, 'My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.'" (Matthew 26:39). I've always read that in pretty much one breath, as if it were all one thought, but this one time I read it, I couldn't get away from the possibility that maybe Jesus struggled a long time before He was able to say "Yet not as I will, but as you will."
As a man, Jesus did not want to go through the physical and emotional struggle that was about to happen. That's why He prayed that it would be taken from Him. We know that He submitted to the Father's will and plan, but was it hard for Him to submit? Obviously, I don't know, but wondering about it certainly makes the story feel more real, and makes me think about it differently.
What about you? Do you find the Bible's lack of detail makes it hard for you to engage with the story sometimes?