I am a die-hard verse by verse Bible reader. My church tradition of the last 20 or so years has been one that makes this type of teaching and reading a distinctive, and in my mind, that made it the right way. Oh sure, there are other good ways, but this, this is the RIGHT way.
Until lately. Despite the uncounted times through the Bible, it seemed the big picture was all I could see. Reading was much like flying over a forest, where tops of trees are all you see, yet, individual trees and their attributes are hidden by the aerial perspective. Somewhere along the way, I seem to have become disconnected from specific details, specific truths. Not intellectually, but in that life giving, spirit breathed way. I could see the forest all right. But I could not see the trees for the forest.
I read an article last week about a guy who has had a number of different careers but has now dedicated himself to the profession of guide for forest bathers. I know. But apparently, this is a real job and not only will he take you into the forest to bathe (more on that in a minute) but for $3500.00 he will teach you to be a guide as well. Perhaps I’ll wait for the YouTube video.
The bathing thing has the goal of helping you to really experience the forest, to leave the cares and concerns and anxieties of your life and be bathed in the life giving beauty of the forest. You walk slowly, you take notice of things and you stop to contemplate nature in ways you never have before. This all sounds great to me, except in the article where the guy has you find your tree twin and ask it what you need to know about yourself. I know. But here’s the thing-research by real researchers and not tree twins has shown that this practice of walking in nature really does have mental, physical and emotional benefits. Could it really be so simple, just a walk in the woods doing so much to benefit my mind, my body, my soul?
Only if you walk slowly. Only if you focus your attention to what is actually around you. Only if the speed of your thoughts matches your oh so slowly moving feet. Only if you stop. Only if you wonder.
Much like reading the Bible.
It’s spring. My peach tree is blooming and everyday I’m trying to notice the more of it. My ministry calendar just cleared, and everyday I’m trying to notice the less of it. Part of this aerial view isn’t a new thing, I’ve just come off a winter filled with reading and studies that took up a lot of brain and soul space. It happens to some degree every spring. But this year, the remedy isn’t my usual book fast and dedication to the scripture only, but a more specific dedication to parts of scripture.
This isn’t my bent, like walking slow isn’t part of my bent. But I want to see the trees for the forest, I want to see the unique attributes and characteristics and fruitfulness of things in scripture. Not just from the aerial view of a single book but by a deliberate walking through the word like walking through the forest and noticing a little farther down the trail, look, there is another one of those trees, but look at how it is growing or flowering or affecting the forest around it. I want to find a rock to sit on and watch the way the light changes the things I see as I don’t move and let time move around me. I want to bathe in individual truths until they saturate my soul.
The presence of God. Rest. Desire, both God’s and mine. God’s love. In my slow walk these are the things I want to notice, places I will turn off the path and sit, washed in the words of the One who gave them that I would know Him and glorify Him.
If you’ve recently finished a Bible study, or a season of ministry or about to finish a school year, choose well not only where you walk but how. Take some time to ask yourself in the presence of your Father who loves you, how am I doing? What does my soul need, and Father, please will You bathe me in it from Your word?
Walk slow, look close and choose well, friends.