Dig Deeper into the Soul

Trees don’t bear fruit on demand. If they did, I could be enjoying a bowl of succulent, ripe cherries from the two saplings I planted in my back yard earlier this spring. But whether I like it or not, I’m going to need to be patient. For the next two or three years, both trees will be slowly establishing themselves: thrusting down roots, pushing out their network of branches and twigs, bearing leaves and blossoms. Only when enough growth has taken place, and the tree is good and ready, will I be able to look forward to the first crop of fruit.

The psalmist encourages us to be like those whose “delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season.” Psalm 1.2,3a, (NRSV)

The reminder that Scripture bears fruit in our lives “in its season” is timely for many of us who have been encouraged to believe that the fruit of biblical engagement can be force-grown. The Bible is not simply a collection of pithy propositions and principles that can be peeled away from the narratives and poetry before being instantly applied. It is seed which, when planted in soil, will germinate and flourish — but unhurriedly.

In the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius of Loyola counseled those engaging with Scripture to practice repetition: living with a short passage of the Bible over an extended period, and revisiting it repeatedly, until it can flower forth in our souls.

Repetition requires us to lay aside our desire for quick interpretation and application, encouraging us instead to create a listening stillness within our hearts so Scripture can speak in its gentle whisper. It implies more than simple, regular re-reading. Repetition requires the inner silence of Samuel in the temple, when he prays, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” He then patiently and attentively waits.

There is wisdom here for the preacher who finds herself engaging with the Bible solely as a sermon sourcebook . . . the teacher for whom Scripture has been flattened into a curriculum resource . . . the leader who is continually required to discover new principles for life in the ancient text — wisdom, in fact, for anyone who needs to rediscover the living voice of God breathing through the pages of Scripture.

Dig deep into the soul and plant the seed of the Word. Revisit it often. Be content to watch it grow and mature, without needing to rush the natural process. In time, it will bear rich fruit for the soul.

Excerpted from Uncover Magazine, which is geared to church leaders seeking Bible renewal. Read the Magazine »

About the Author
Christopher Webb is president of Renovare USA, www.renovare.us, a Christian ministry dedicated to helping people experience a richer life with God through spiritual formation. Before coming to the United States, Webb was a Franciscan Anglican priest in the Church in Wales for 12 years. He has graduate degrees in planetary and space physics from the University of Wales and a degree in theology from Trinity College Bristol. He and his wife Sally live in Colorado and have four young children. He is now a Grey Robe Benedictine.

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