I started reading 1 Thessalonians today because yesterday I wound up in chapter 3 and remembered just how fantastic these letters are!
I won’t drone on and on about how Paul was a verbal genius (run-on sentences aside), but, I will repetitively remind you his words are weighty.
Paul doesn’t waste words.
He packs theological concepts in nearly every sentence, and he does so in relatively simple language. This is great for our ease of understanding complex ideas, but it can also be a bad thing because it allows us to read quickly.
What’s wrong with reading quickly? It doesn’t give our minds time to ponder.
When we are super familiar with the words Paul uses, we assume our cursory understanding during our speed-reading “quiet time” is all there is to know. But that is rarely true.
For instance, in 1 Thessalonians 2:13, Paul says, “…the word of God…is at work in you who believe.” Because most of us hear these short, simple words multiple times each day, they don’t require our full attention when reading them. We can blaze through that verse and be on to the next in about 2 seconds.
But if we slow down for a minute or two, we might stop and ask ourselves what Paul means by “the word of God”. He could mean the scriptures of that time–the Old Testament. Or he might mean the gospel he has orally shared with the Thessalonians and written about in other letters the Thessalonians have probably read. Or he might actually mean Jesus is at work in them, because Jesus is the word of God (John 1:1).
Paul might mean none of these things, one of these things, a couple of these things, or all of these things. Even though Paul uses words most of us learned to say by the time we were 2 and read by the time we were 5, Paul’s meaning–the idea(s) he intends to communicate–could be quite profound.
Sometimes people ask me how I continually come up with ideas to write about. And my answer is pretty boring: I read slowly.
Not in a Forrest Gump kind of way.
(Well, sometimes in a Forrest Gump kind of way…)
What I mean is I stop a lot. I stare out the window and let a phrase roll around in my brain for a minute or two. I consider all the possible definitions of the nouns and the verbs and whether or not the verse can be interpreted multiple ways. I try to remember if the phrase sounds familiar…did the writer use it somewhere else?
And, before long, I have a whole lot to say about a single, simple verse.
(Side note: a major reason I dislike read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plans is because they don’t give you time to slow down. Sure, it’s fun to say you read through the whole Bible in a year, but, if you’re like me and don’t retain a whole lot reading at that clip, I give you permission to quit and try something else. Although, it’s December 27th. If you started your plan last January 1st and quit now, I either have way too much influence over you, or you’re ridiculous. Or both.)
If the Bible isn’t grabbing your attention–if it seems rather boring to you–try this simple change: slow. down.
Choose one verse (might I suggest 1 Thessalonians 1:3, the verse I intended to write about when I started this post, but, alas, I got side-tracked), read it, re-read it, and write down every thought that comes to mind about it. Write down questions and possible meanings. Write down what the verse teaches you about God and/or about living as a believer. Consider whether your beliefs and life reflect what is being taught, for better or for worse, and why or why not.
That kind of reflection should liven up your reading. And your living. But that’s another post for another day.