WHY: the book of common prayer

It’s funny, you know, being a seminary student. People expect you to know the Bible and have something worth saying. They think we spend hours pouring over the text, reading it in Greek and Hebrew, studying the Vulgate and duetero-canonical books always hoping to glean something new, something brilliant, something the world is in desperate need of hearing.

But it isn’t true. In the past year I’ve read the entire Bible and that’s a fact. But after reading five books of the Bible for an exam, I don’t turn around read it for fun. I read about the Bible for fun, I don’t read the text itself as a way to enjoy my afternoons away from class and campus.

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I heard about a Farmer’s Wife whose family reads the Bible together after every meal and I thought, aloud to Ethan and the rest of my Colorado-family, that it was the most brilliant idea I’d heard in a long time. So the next night, after dinner, Ethan tugged his worn out Bible from the reading shelf of his room and thumbed through to Isaiah 52 where he started to read Messianic prophecies and songs of the Servant.
The next night he read Romans; when he got home he found a book by a radical in Pennsylvania and calledme after I’d climbed into my lofted bed. He read the night liturgy written for the day of Advent and together we said Amen. It was a beautiful moment. But it was hard and it was conflicting in my soul. The prayer was about lifting up the oppressed and sheltering the hurt, the hungry, etc.

I lived in the inner city and I fed the hungry. We give of ourselves though we haven’t much money, we try to buy generously for others, we donate and give to causes. I have housed so many people and I am grateful for the shelter He’s provided for us to help others. We dress and live life simply so we can live frugally and give away.

But I’m also accruing debt going to school. Someday, after the PhD, what if it’s not the city but a farm? What if there are home-schooled children under foot and a mudroom full of tools, boots, jackets and rifles hung
kids at rodeohigh on the wall? What if I don’t feel called to the poor, but to the broken rich–suffocated by their wealth and possessions? What if I am called to the country, to the rural, to open fields and running water where the sky meets the horizon long before it sees sky scrapers and homeless? What of that life?

But there is more than that. There is my selfishness, my greed. E wants a big house so we can house families–two or three at a time–so we can bless those coming home from the mission field, those who need time away from their churches, give them rest, comfort and a slower pace if only for a day or for weeks.

Me, I think of extra mud on my floor and beds to be made, sheets to change, food to be bought and cooked. When will I do my writing? When will I research?

Ethan thinks of giving without thought and I think of saving for a rainy day when I’ll provide for myself and forget to rely on God. He gives time and I retain it, cloistering myself in the library, away from anyone who might distract from my all consuming obsession to learn.

Scripture, for this reason makes me uncomfortable,  nervous and frustrated.

I like my  life.

I like my dreams.

What if Scripture calls me to give them up? What if my dream isn’t the one He’ll reveal? Or what if my dream is His calling but it’s to be laced with sacrifices of time, cleanliness, money and sleep? Do I want to follow that? My heart, when Ethan read the scripture and prayers was that I don’t want it. I want to be left alone, unchallenged, I to follow my own desires.

And this, I realized, is the greatest irony of being in seminary: learning to teach the things I’m so afraid to accept for myself. Scripture, good, beautiful, strong and convicting is not something I enjoy reading but it something for which my soul yearns as I am slowly growing into who I already am in Christ.

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