I usually write about trees and things. Sometimes when I submit one of my nature-themed micro literary essays to a potential publisher, I ask them to read it aloud before they decide. I think they’ll enjoy the language if they hear it spoken. I think they’ll understand what I’m talking about if the rhythm and cadence of the sentences carries them along. I think they’ll respect what I’ve said if they feel its resonance.
And I think we should do the same with the Bible: read it aloud. I’m talking about reading with expression, with a full sense both of drama and realism—the way you would read a true story to a child. Not the traditional bland singsong best suited to an echoing stone building, nor the semi-shouting preacher-tones that outdoor speakers had to use before the advent of the microphone. Reading with both respect and enjoyment—as a work of history and literature and as doctrine. Let the characters live in your voice: the incredulity of Sarai after being told she’d have a baby; the cheerful impulsiveness of the young disciple Peter; the barely-suppressed rage of Job at his lowest point. Read aloud.
Reading aloud forces you to do what dramatists call “interpretation,” demonstrating vocally and facially the way the story runs. I have read over scriptural scenes a hundred times, seeing within the words only the things I expected to see... and then I’ve read aloud to my children and encountered almost a different Bible.
Until I read the psalms of David aloud, I never really felt their grit and gravel. Until I read the story of Joseph aloud, I completely missed his conflicting emotions as he listened (with his face painted in Egyptian style) to his brothers’ self-recriminations. Until I read the long last words of Moses in my best attempt at the voice of a tired old man who has seen too much of human inconstancy, I never quite saw the futility of adhering to the Old Covenant, the need for a once-for-all Savior.
Back when the Bible was written, silent reading wasn’t really a thing. Reading was sharing. I believe God laid it upon my heart to make a daily routine of reading the Bible aloud with my children, as my father had tried to do with me and my siblings. And when God asks you to do something, it cuts both ways like the proverbial double-edged sword. It’s not just for the benefit of the recipients; it changes you as well.
You can read some of Fiona’s nature-themed writing here: https://www.allgutsnoglory.com/fiona-jones, and here: https://longleafreview.com/fiona-m-jones/, and here https://folded.wordpress.com/2018/11/07/insect/.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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