I’ve come to the end of the book of Job but, you know what? I don’t want to leave it. I turned the page and the next book is Psalms. We’re doing a series on the Psalms in church at the moment but I simply don’t want to work my way through them yet. I want to stay with Job. I want to sit with him on the beach, and delve into him in my commentary, and think about him. I was going to say ‘dream’ about him but I had a quite disconcerting dream the other night where this bloke – no idea who he was – right in the middle of a lovely meal with a gang of happy people, told me to stop swearing.
I’m trying, OK? Don’t look at me in that tone of voice.
We had a sermon a few weeks ago about the Bible being the living word, and as I listened I could feel the excitement rising. I love the Bible so much and to hear someone else, someone outside of my silent brain, saying the things I believe and hold dear… it was wonderful. As he spoke the Pastor held his bible out, a soft covered Bible, and it was open as if it was a bird, in flight. I could see the life in it. I could feel the power of it. I knew the truth of it in a way that I know no other truth. It was a life changing moment, a realisation. The keyboard I’m tapping on right now is not as real as the Bible, the sky above me is not as relevant as the Bible, the population of the world does not contain as much love as the Bible. There is nothing as deep or as wide or as vital as the Bible.
I just can’t get enough of it and I know I never will.
Which brings me to something I discovered this morning on the beach: the church is a living thing, just like the Bible, but unlike the Bible it changes. It grows and shrinks, matures and falters, shines and struggles. The church I came to four years ago has changed a great deal, and so have I. Maybe if I wandered into the little red building now, rather than back then, I wouldn’t come again… we are both at different points in our lives. And change can be disheartening and painful.
How have I changed? Well, only one big change really – I am starving hungry for more of God. Ravenous. I am clawing at the heavens shouting ‘More! Please more!’ and the only places I can find my ‘more’ are digging into the Word, and prayer. When I go to church I meet the rough and tumble of church life, and that’s good, but it’s not what I’m hungry for, and at the end of the day I look back and realise that my only time with God was the hour before morning church, the hour after evening church.
Yesterday I had a whole feast of the Word. I listened to three sermons from South Africa as I sat at the table with my patchwork. I felt a bit like Whistler’s Mother but the thought made me smile, not sad. And then I listened to David Suchet reading Job and then Isaiah. It was a fabulous day. No one spoke to me and that would usually make me feel horribly lonely, but the Word spoke to me instead. No one phoned and that would have made me feel isolated any other day, but I was lost in the sermons and didn’t take the phone off its base. I didn’t even get a text or an email. By the afternoon, I was just lost in wonder, awe and praise. The only human voice I heard was reading the word of God. What a privilege!
I know some of you read the Bible and share my feelings, and I know too that some of you just don’t. I’m not a preacher or a teacher, but listen, oh, listen, there is no book in the world like the Bible. There is no book more exciting, intriguing, multi-layered, integrated than the Bible. It is just amazing. And so rewarding. It’s the book that changes life. It changed my life and – amazingly!- it’s still changing my life. And, like I said, my dumplings, change is difficult, challenging , painful. But necessary.
The great thing is that the Bible never changes. It is the same now as it will always be. The truth it holds never changes. In a world of change and ruin, there is one eternal, God. And God is in the Word. I need more of Him. Less of the world and more of Him. I can’t wait to get into the Bible every morning, and I’m loathe to leave it most nights. So… whadja gonna do?
I took this conundrum to God this morning, and as I threw the ball for Percy and watched the gulls wheeling and heard the waves softly breaking, it was as if someone whispered to me ‘Dig deep’.
So that’s what I’m doing for the summer. I’m taking my spade to the bible and I’m going to dig deep , I’m going to dig and dig and dig until I can dig no more, and as I dig I’m going to unearth treasure after treasure. Call it a retreat, or a sabbatical, or a time out. Just don’t call it ‘running away’. A time of change.
Hey, listen – I am going out tonight with people who are not single! Actual married couples! Married couples who are spending an evening out with an actual singleton- me! How amazing! I’m ridiculously pleased. It’s so very very rare for married people to invite a single person to go out for the evening. And they’re American, visiting, and I do love America.
They think we’re going to talk about Wales? Hah! No chance. It’s USA all the way! And American box sets, obvs. And possibly Star Trek in the 60’s and how it changed the face of TV drama. Ages since I bestrode that soapbox.
And yes, I’ll try not to swear.