I just returned from a camping trip with a group of students from the Abante International program. The theme was Back to the Basics and the idea behind it was to be intentionally organic in everything we did for the two days of our wilderness experience. Everything from the sleeping arrangements, food, bathroom facilities (none), to the water we drank, had to be organic. This meant no pre-packaged food, (i.e. smores, hotdogs) as is customary on camping trips, and the most significant –no bottled water. We had to boil water from the creek for drinking, washing, etc.
I have gone camping many times before, since I was a toddler, but this was different. I don’t remember ever yearning for a bottle of water as much as I did on this trip. To be honest, I did well with the food part. I can do fresh fruit and vegetables any time. The water issue, however, was seriously tough for me, even more so than going to the bathroom in the woods (sight). Not sure why, but I could not make myself drink the boiled water. I hate to admit it, but I failed miserably with the water test. To be truthful, I never drank a drop of water the first day. It wasn’t until we came upon a water fall the next afternoon that I had any water to drink. I was so thirsty! I climbed up some rocks and tried to get as high as I could go and take a sip from the purest water flowing down from the falls. It was so refreshing going down my throat!
We stopped there to read and meditate for about an hour. The location was stunningly beautiful and serene. While there, I got caught up on some reading and then meditated on the scriptures that we read during our group lesson and devotion the night before. Our leader had shared with us the importance of not only studying the scriptures but also to meditate on the scriptures as Lectio Divina (Latin for Divine Reading). I had never heard of this method before and was fascinated by the whole idea.
According to Contemplative Outreach, Lectio Divina, literally meaning “divine reading,” is an ancient practice of praying the scriptures. During Lectio Divina, the practitioner listens to the text of the Bible with the “ear of the heart,” as if he or she is in conversation with God, and God is suggesting the topics for discussion. The method of Lectio Divina includes moments of reading (lectio), reflecting on (meditatio), responding to (oratio) and resting in (contemplatio) the Word of God with the aim of nourishing and deepening one’s relationship with the Divine.
I for one, have gotten in the habit of only reading the scriptures in order to study. Whether it be in preparation for a lesson or for self study, but I realized that evening that I seldom, just read the scriptures and meditate on what they have to say to me personally in order to hear God speak. I love the scriptures and I love to read the scriptures, I also live a very busy life as I’m sure many of you do. However, there are times when I feel lost; like walking aimlessly with a broken compass.
I sometimes feel as though I pray and pray but my prayers seem to bounce back, without inasmuch as a whisper from God. Then I feel guilty because I”m certain I must be doing something wrong, otherwise why wouldn’t God speak to me? As if God was playing games with my mind and messing with my feelings. Do you relate to that? I guess that would make him out to be a mean, insensitive and distant God, though, don’t you think? Does He listen to every word I say? Does He care about my situation? Is He speaking to me daily? Why can’t I hear Him? Those are the questions that usually bombard my mind when I feel lost.
That evening by the bonfire, we read a passage of scripture and then closed our eyes and simply meditated on that passage for a while in complete silence. We read it again out loud followed by a time of prayer and then we worshipped together. I cannot begin to tell you how difficult I found it at first, to just relax and focus, but when I finally was able to meditate, I was able to hear God speak to me clearly thorugh the words of those verses. It was amazing! These were verses I had read and dissected in study but never allowed the word to intimately come alive in me and speak to my own need.
That evening, when I laid in my tent, I stared at the most beautiful starry night. I continued to meditate on the scriptures for most of the night and still God kept revealing new things and answering many of the questions I had. The next morning, I could still taste the sweetness of the message, more like an aftertaste, perhaps to keep me longing for more. Charles H. Spurgeon once said; The fact is, we sometimes read Scripture, thinking of what it ought to say, rather than what it does say. Isn’t that the truth? You and I are both guilty of this mistake.
Reading the scriptures should be an adventure, much like digging for treasure or mining for precious jewels. Do you know how badly I yearned for a bottle of Dasani? When I found myself by the water fall, I drank and it felt so good, I immediately forgot all about what I thought I needed. Lectio Divina! I had a divine revelation of the scriptures that changed something in my perception of what I needed.
Charles H. Spurgeon also said about reading the Holy Scriptures;
This kind of experience should teach us the preciousness of the Word of God as a whole so that we would not part with a single letter of it, and would not give up even the dot of an i or the cross of a t…Why, even a solitary divine precept is so precious that, if all the saints in the world were burnt at one stake for the defence of it, it would be well worth the holocaust.
We should love the word of God! We also should treasure it deep in our hearts and meditate on it day and night, but we should not try to manipulate the message. I believe if we spent more time in Lectio Divina, we would hear what God is saying to our specific needs as well as to the response we should have to adversity. We don’t need to walk aimlessly through life unable to hear from God, when He speaks daily through His word. We just need to read, meditate and listen.
“I would like in particular to recall and recommend the ancient tradition of Lectio divina: the diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer brings about that intimate dialogue in which the person reading hears God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to him with trusting openness of heart (cf. Dei Verbum, n. 25). If it is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church – I am convinced of it – a new spiritual springtime.” Pope Benedict XVI