My friend, Dominic Partida, graciously agreed to contribute to my blog. As a pastor and adjunct professor, Dom understands what it means to have life, work, ministry, grading, etc. fully take over our capacity to think, process, and pray. Dom shares his journey with the spiritual practice of Lectio Divina here on my blog. -AZ
“…look, these are only the outer fringe of his ways; we hear only a whispered word about him” - Job 26:14
Over the past few years, Christians have been rediscovering ancient practices like liturgy, solitude, and silence. People like Henri Nouwen, Eugene Peterson and Dallas Willard have inspired a new generation of Jesus followers to return back to practices to discover Jesus in fresh ways that are in fact old—sometimes very old. One of those old ways is lectio divina.
Lectio Divina. A verb followed by an adjective in Latin. Divine reading for us English speakers.
The title sounds spiritual. The act is deeply earthy and embodied. It is the act of reading slowly, reading with your whole self (your eyes, ears, heart/mind open), and reading not for the sake of information or duty, but rather for relationship. It is not just reading with your eyes, but also hearing with your ears and paying attention to the small voice that is drawing your attention. It is in this way that lectio divina is misleading because it is not so much reading as it is being read, and not so much hearing as it listening. The importance is crucial.
We hear many things, but listen to few.
When we hear, we allow whatever is coming in to hit our eardrum and bounce out the other side, usually to not be recovered again. When we listen, we receive, ponder, and respond.
We often come to the Text as I had done for years with an aspiration to my ‘Christian duty’ of “doing morning devos”. That included reading a certain number of passages, writing something down and hoping that something sticks. Perhaps it was a fault of my own, but I would often see what I could mine from the Text for the purposes of retaining information that I hoped would translate into some kind of wisdom that might form a relationship with Jesus through my reading. I combed and combed and combed, highlighted passages that stuck out and would write down verses, yet the approach had dried.
Maybe I needed to try harder.
Maybe I needed to include a song while reading.
Maybe I needed better coffee or a muffin to really get me in a better spiritual space.
I tried it all with no “results” (you’ll see why I put quotes in a minute). I knew of no other way to read than to read for information about Jesus, but not necessarily to know Jesus and hear Him speaking through the Spirit. This all changed in seminary as I was introduced to lectio divina and had to practice this reading as an assignment. The “reading” was not difficult but it was challenging. It was difficult to not try to dig into the text to try to dig up something for myself, but the assignment was the resist the urge.
I wanted to dig and work. Jesus wanted me to sit and listen.
The massive difference proved fruitful not so much that it produced a “result” as much as it gave me a newfound peace that my reading was not a practice of how much my eyes could run over and how much my brain could retain, but rather how receptive was my heart to hear the voice of the Spirit that morning or night. This required me to be slow in a season where the pace had to be fast lest I fall behind in work, school, ministry and relationships. Perhaps it was Jesus telling me to slow down and fall back a little bit to listen, and I have recently had that nudge to slow down a bit with my reading. As life has picked up recently with getting engaged and to be married in December (2018!) to the school semester starting back up and classes and grading resuming to ministry responsibilities and small but growing church I am currently serving, there is a kind of pressure to keep up and keep the proverbial plates all spinning, including relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
I understand that it is the responsibility of an adult to be well-versed at plate spinning, but this is a dreaded thing when reading and prayer are attached to a to-do list rather than anchored in our hearts as a life-giving wellspring.
Lectio divina has helped to establish a time to turn a plate into a well, reading into listening, and gaining into receiving. I am better attentive to people because of the slower pace. I am steadier and less anxious in my work because of the slower pace. I am more aware of God’s presence in all kinds of normal things like work, walking, talking with friends, and even in the shower.
The world is teeming with presence if we learn to slow down and listen.
Practice Lectio Divina
If you have not yet practiced lectio divina, I strongly encourage you to try it. If you find yourself dry and in need of refreshment, a slower pace and peace try lectio divina.
The practice is simple:
Sit quietly for a minute and rest. Slow your mind down.
Find a short passage (the lectionary is awfully helpful with this, or a lectio divina jounal available online). Some of my recent favorites have been Job 26:1-14, 1 John 2:18-25, Psalm 128. Try one.
Read it three to five times. Take a break to think and pray.
Write down a word or passage. Take a break to think and pray.
Pray intentionally about the passage. Take a break to think and pray. That’s it.
Slow down. Listen. Life is too fast not to slow down.
Use the comment feature below to share your journey with Lectio Divina.