God is always redeeming… even me. I decided a few weeks ago to work my way through Macrina Wiederkehr’s book, Abide: Keeping Vigil with the Word of God. It was about 10 years ago, at a spiritual formation retreat at St. Meinrad’s, that I came upon this book of meditations. The back of the book describes the text as “an invitation to make the Word of God your home through the practice of lectio divina.” I welcome this kind of dwelling place that requires a particular kind of paying attention.
Sister Macrina invites me to be accessible to God through the practice of lectio divina in connection with my lived experience. Sometimes our need for certainty prevents us from meeting God, she says, and uncertainty about Mitch’s and my own next thing is hovering around me. I meet my wondering in the quiet of the morning to be reassured that unknowing is palatable, even a desirable place to rest.
Every time I sit down with the Word of God, with the kind of presence Jesus models, something turns over in the ground of my being that feels like a little salvation. I experience the process of “being saved” from my own triviality.
…In the Benedictine tradition we call this form of monastic prayer lectio divina. In the monastic way of abiding with the Word we do not read the Scripture text to obtain information. The careful reading…is for the purpose of opening our hearts to be formed by the Word of God. We listen to the words so carefully that even our reading becomes a prayer.
I’ve gleaned these recursive practices, merging my own experience with the Sister’s descriptions.
Wait. To begin, I get quiet. I need to consciously suppress the chatter that is incessantly running through my head. This wait gives me time to quell those other voices to make room for the Voice I most need to hear. I wait to consciously acknowledge the divine presence right here and now.
Read. Just as I propose in the reading theory and practice course I teach, when engaging with a text for more than a cursory glance, I first must read to get a sense of the whole passage. It helps me to read out loud, physically seeing and hearing the words. I read without much expectation—being open to words, phrases, and ideas that bold themselves in my mind.
Listen Obediently. I read a second time, slowly and intentionally listening. The obedience called for here is a deep listening,
…a listening so deep we are drawn into the Spirit of Jesus and given a wisdom that enables us to know how to respond to the word. It is an obedience that is revelatory.
On the first and second reading words will stand up, ask me to pay attention to them in particular. The words might be the same ones that I noticed in the first reading and often take on a more nuanced understanding. Making connections to whatever is going on in my life at that moment, I am surprised by insight.
Pray. In the midst of reading, I find myself praying these very words back to God. The words I’m praying have swelled with meaning that is intricately connected to what is happening in my life; what I am wondering about, even insights I didn’t even know to consider as possibilities.
Abide. In order to sit with the words, I purposefully read them, again and again, multiple days in a row. As the forward to Abide suggests, I want the words to seep in as I am invited to
sit with the Word of God, to remain there for a while so that it can begin to seep into us. It reminds us that receiving the Word of God is not a matter of intellect but of presence, our lingering presence in the company of God, and God’s desire to be present with and for us…
The Word becomes our abiding place… the space in our lives where we practice being rather than doing; it is the space where we remain in Jesus as he remains in us.
So today I began reading John 21: 1-14. My experience of this close reading, lectio divina, is that God seems to know what I need.
This story recalls Jesus appearing to some disciples on the shore of a lake after his resurrection. The disciples had been fishing all night without any luck and in the early dawn noticed a man on the shoreline. The man called to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” Instructing them to cast their net on the other side of the boat, their net was filled with fish that they had to drag to shore.
My first reaction, on my initial reading, was to notice that net full of fish—the abundance— and that God does know where to cast our nets.
We signed a contract to sell our house this morning and I must celebrate the magnificence of this place in particular and how each place where we’ve lived has provided for us in different ways. Now, I am being asked to trust that divine care again.
In my second prayerful reading, the first word that stood out for pause was “Jesus showed himself” (v.1). I am being invited to see how Jesus is showing himself to me, right now through people, events, and resolutions. The disciples in this passage had been fishing all night in this same place and had not caught anything. Jesus showed himself in the midst of the everyday with improbable abundance.
The disciples did not know it was Jesus, at first (v.4). I continually struggle with whether things that happen are chance things or God’s things, and as Buechner reminds me, they are both at once, “incarnate in the flesh and blood of ourselves and of our own footsore and scared journey’s” (Listening to Your Life).
Jesus initiated help offering “cast your net on the right side.” The disciples had done what they knew to do, fishing that night. They didn’t ask for help—they noticed a man’s presence, listened, and did what he suggested. The warm fire and the food he offered was just what they needed next. I can imagine how hungry they must have been.
As the fishermen dragged their overflowing net to shore, the net was not torn (v.11). Their net could handle the abundance. I, too, have experienced the abundance of this very house where I live and I will leave intact—thanking God for this experience. Jesus says to me, leave the net, take some fish out of the abundance and come to break fast. The disciples didn’t ask Jesus if it was him or not, they knew and accepted.
What is the obedience that I am being called into? Recognize God’s abundance. Don’t try to figure it all out.