by Andy Strauss
There’s been a lot going on lately… I’m sure you can relate. One day I was setting up interviews for on campus ministries and preparing for midterms and the next I was packing up most of my dorm in my silver Honda Fit and leaving campus wondering what had just happened.
Have you ever had a thought or feeling that was so “loud” that, like a mental gong, it rang over and over so that you couldn’t think about literally anything else? That’s how this event was for me, except I shoved the gong down from my head to dull the noise. However, what I didn’t realize was that my heart didn’t really like the ringing down there and pushed it back up towards my mind so that it lodged somewhere uncomfortable in my throat. I hope you can see what happened here. I had created a painful, emotional, and mental tension which only grew as things got worse.
Now, this all sounds dramatic and fantastical, but all it looked like on the outside was a college kid trying to play superhero and shrug off a global pandemic as if all that had happened amounted to an extended vacation.
Lectio Divina - Holy Reading
The Lectio Divina is a method early Christians practiced to prayerfully read through scripture. It provided a way for men and women of faith to talk honestly to God, to process emotions, and to find comfort in the arms of their Lord. I first practiced the Lectio Divina last semester as an assignment for a class. My professors, Scott Duvall, and Danny Hays wrote a wonderful book that provides steps for interpreting Biblical Scripture and explains the Lectio Divina. Traditionally, this method consists of five steps to walk you through a passage of Scripture:
1. Silentio (silence)
Approach the Word of God with a stilled heart and mind. This process is about letting go of your worries and angers. Sit down with your Bible and a short passage of scripture. But don’t read it yet. Let your heart slow down. Begin to release. There is usually more your heart needs to let go of than you think.
2. Lectio (reading)
Read the passage very slowly, and if you can, read each word aloud. Let each word sink in - don’t miss a single word. If any word or phrase stands out to you, read it several times. At this point, don’t try to figure out what the passage means.
3. Meditatio (meditating)
Read the passage again. Let your mind linger on the words. Consider how God might be speaking into your life through this passage. Remember that Scripture never loses relevance.
4. Oratio (praying)
Read the passage one more time. Pray through this passage, and tell God what comes to mind. Be as honest as you can about what you feel. You may have to dig for a while to discover what feelings might be buried. Don’t shy from the hard stuff - God wants you to tell him!
5. Contemplatio (contemplation)
Once you have finished praying, sit for a minute in silence. Take a breath, and ask God how you might respond to this passage. Fully let go of the hurt your heart was holding on to and “cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Think of some specific actions you can take in response to the passage. Finally, thank God for what He has done, what He is doing, and what He will do. Let God know you truly believe He is in control.
6. Scriptito (writing)
The previous steps are the five that Christians have practiced for years and years. As a further recommendation, I would add one more step, and encourage you to do what my professors had me do after practicing the Lectio Divina. Write a little bit about your time with God, or at least, tell someone about it.
It doesn’t have to be much, but I have always found that expressing my thoughts “fast-tracks” the processing of my thoughts. If I tell someone, or put it on a page, it solidifies the swirling storm cloud of ideas zipping around in my head. Moreover, it helps me stay away from abstract thinking- I can move from vague feelings of the goodness of God to clear statements like: “I am confident that God is in control and knows exactly what he is doing.”
Practice and Persistence
The ringing doesn’t go away until you take it as it is and give it to God. It is painful to listen to, but if you take the time, the “Father of compassion and the God of comfort [will] comfort you in all your troubles” (2 Cor 1:3). Anjuli Paschall wrote a beautiful book on how to keep your emotions from boiling somewhere deep within you, how to process the “ringing,” and how to invite God into your feelings.
Wait in Silence - God is the Actor
Psalm 62:5-8 is the passage I have been praying through recently. I have found enormous comfort in talking to God about this Psalm. The comparison here is striking: the Psalmist encourages us to “wait in silence,” while calling God his “fortress,” and his “refuge”—places you go in times of peril and desperation. He reminds us that our job, truly, as his people, is to call on his name and ask him to work. God is the actor. We merely trust in him and let him work. Though the passage holds a sad undertone, it shines with hope and radiates with the joy that only comes from faith.
If you have a moment, I encourage you to try out the Lectio Divina, and pray over this passage for you and your family. I know it's often hard to find time alone, so don’t get stuck on Silentio. Silentio is more about quieting your heart rather than being in a quiet place.
For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah
- Psalm 62:5-8
Hi, I’m Andy! I am an Ouachita Baptist University grad who writes stories, teaches languages, and makes music in between. The puzzle and mystery of languages fascinate me and inspire me to dig deeper in my studies. I love to learn and experience God’s creation and share what I have found with others.