I have been asked by a dear friend and sister to share the final paper I wrote for one of my classes this term. The class was Introduction to the Hermeneutical Task. While it is a bit formal, I appreciate being able to share a bit of my heart and my journey. I hope you find something of value for you!
For years my personal hermeneutic has been based on the revelation of God’s love as given to us in the Bible – the invitation to come, taste, and see that He is indeed good. But, as this lens has developed over the years, it has been alternately tarnished and polished by the circumstances of my life and the choices I have made. As I wrestle with God’s continual offer of new life, His directions on how to live in community, how to creatively extend His invitation to others, and how to seek Him together with everyone He brings into my life, I realize how desperately I need a fresh revelation of this God who both invites and provides – daily.
My Christian training began in the camp of those who focused on what they stood against. It was a fundamental, evangelical setting – where I never completely fit in. While the claim was to not be legalistic and there was pride in the stance, the list of what to do and what not to do was long. Reading the Bible was a duty. Praying was a duty. Witnessing, keeping oneself pure, and women being submissive were all a matter of duty. We were told we should do these things out of gratitude for God’s unconditional love for us, but I heard contradiction in that statement, which caused confusion. This stance and its lists often left me feeling empty and wanting something different, something more.
Then I met Major Ian Thomas and was off to Capernwray Bible School, where the emphasis was clearly on “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Living by the to do/not to do list was challenged. My understanding expanded during my year at Capernwray. I began to learn that there was so much more to my faith than how much I read my Bible, prayed, and witnessed to others. I was introduced to Oswald Chambers and My Utmost for His Highest. Through the Major, Chambers, and other leaders in the Deeper Life Movement, I was challenged to go deeper, learn about abiding, and being present with God and others. It has been a long process, but I am beginning to be more consistent in my presence and giving thought to why I live the way I do.
I have a hermeneutic based on God’s multifaceted love for His creation and the hope He offers for new life. I now recognize that my understanding of the nature of His love is skewed due to my own personal story and the brokenness of humanity in general. It has been difficult for me to accept the truth of this imbalance; having my view of normal upset and brought under scrutiny has been uncomfortable. This upsetting requires that I reevaluate what I understand as God’s love and how I interpret Scripture based on that warped view of His love.
As old ways are challenged, I am forced to examine and then find where my foundation is firm and actually true to God’s own self-revelation. I am slowly finding my balance anew, though it feels quite like standing on the surface of a small iceberg rocking back and forth in a choppy sea and trying hard to not fall over the edge. I must admit to my fear of falling into the frigid water and drowning; what if my interpretations are wrong? I now recognize that I don’t primarily need to know about the interpretation of the words contained in the Bible, what I truly need is to become intimately acquainted with the living Word revealed in the words.
I seek to be known by what I stand FOR. I am drawn to the expression of faith described in A. W. Jones, Soul Making: The Desert Way of Spirituality. I am drawn to the desert fathers’ simplicity and openness and focus on seeing God in others and being for them in their journey. Jones says that the desert way “believes and trusts in the working of the Holy Spirit in all human beings. … Their hoping is characterized by the willingness to wait and to endure with a sense of both expectancy and suspense.” This is how I desire to be known, waiting with expectancy even in the suspense of all that is unknown in my life.
I am by nature one who truly loves people, but my love needs to be transformed by the very nature of God Himself so that I am not offering others a broken, disappointing, humanistic love. True love conveys hope, acceptance, and curiosity. I can only be an effective follower of Christ to the degree that I know Him intimately, not how much I know about Him. I desire my life to be an invitation to others to come and join me in experiencing the God who is for us, not against things or people. And thus I am faced with the need to unlearn and then learn anew what it means to flesh out the true meaning of love – God’s perfect love that is poured out to and through us as a gift of His Spirit. This is how I interpret Buber’s idea of “genuine encounter.” Truly relational living requires the fullness of His resurrected power to daily walk out what it means to live in an incarnational manner. This is illustrated in passages such as:
May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord. By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence.
Knowing Him intimately leads to a changed perspective. I resonated with Richard Hays essay as he described our need to read the Word in light of the resurrection. Approaching the interpretation of meaning in this way is a new concept to me, but it seems so obvious. If the Bible is God’s story of redemption, of restoring humanity to an intimate relationship with Himself, and He has accomplished this through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, then surely this is the primary lens we need for rightly interpreting His story. In Hays’ words, “Reading in light of the resurrection opens both text and reader to new, previously unimagined, possibilities.” I have certainly found this to be true. Looking for God’s movement towards resurrection encompasses looking for movement from death to life, from darkness to light, from bondage to freedom, and from confusion to clarity. When confronted with a text that is difficult or confusing, I need to take a step back, look at the big picture, and wonder if I am taking the whole story into account. I must search to see how God’s movement is revealed.
I am encouraged to read with a fresh perspective and a heart open to what God will reveal, not only to me, but through me also. I am reminded of how much I need the community of believers and of how much the community of believers needs me and the unique voice with which God speaks through me. We are, after all, His body in community. We need each other. We need to live and to work together as His body, inviting others to discover His goodness for themselves, to enter into faith together so that our hope will be restored and our lives will abound with love.
Yes, I do interpret life and God’s Word through a lens that has been shaped by the pain and sorrow as well as joy and fulfillment that have all been part of my life experiences. My lens continues to be refined through God’s revelation of Himself. I choose to fully respond to His invitation to come, taste, and see that He is indeed good, to daily enter into the new life He offers, and to receive His revelation as I live in community and seek Him together with others. I am learning to live with a more relational perspective, one that honors others right where they are and offers an invitation for them to come and discover together what God would say to us. I am indeed receiving fresh revelation from God daily and look forward to more.
Buber, Martin. I and Thou, translated by W. Kaufman. New York: Scribners, 1970.
Hays, Richard B. “Reading Scripture in Light of the Resurrection.” In The Art of Reading Scripture, edited by Ellen F. Davis and Richard B. Hays, 216-38. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 2003.
Jones, A.W. “Introduction – Angels of God: Believers and Unbelievers in the Desert.” In Soul Making: The Desert Way of Spirituality, 1-16. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985.
 Colossians 1:27
 A. W. Jones, “Introduction – Angels of God: Believers and Unbelievers in the Desert.” In Soul Making: The Desert Way of Spirituality (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985), 11.
 Martin Buber, I and thou, trans. W. Kaufman. (New York: Scribners, 1970).
 2 Peter 1:2-3 (NLT)
 Richard B. Hayes. “Reading Scripture in Light of the Resurrection,” in The Art of Reading Scripture, edited by Ellen F. Davis and Richard B. Hays. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 2003).
 Hayes. “Reading Scripture in Light of the Resurrection,” 231.