Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens the wits of another. (Proverbs 27:17)
Did you read Jim’s post on Monday? It described Jim’s first intense experience reading the Bible, the summer before he started seminary. He wrote, “I spent the summer waking at 5, going to my iron-working studio, and sitting at a huge fabrication table reading the bible.” I loved that image! I loved it because it showed Jim being remade in the place that he loved to go to make things. It showed the power of God working on a human heart.
The Bible works on us like a smelting process: melting us down, filtering the impurities, and casting us anew. The prophet Malachi writes that the messenger of God “will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.” (Mal 3:3)
In the monastic tradition, the people who have survived this working over are known as “Living Rules.” Mark Salzman describes it like this, “a [person] who epitomized the highest ideas of contemplative life. Tradition held that if the laws and constitutions of the Order were ever lost, they could be recovered simply by watching a Living Rule pray.”*
That is the goal of reading Scripture: to allow it to work itself into your heart so far that it alters you, so far that someone looking at your life could reconstruct the core teachings of Jesus. They would see you embodying mercy, or love, or faithfulness, or honesty, or love of children, or insight, or prayer, or radical trust in God, or one of a hundred other gifts that Jesus spelled out in his life so that we can spell them out in ours.
Most of us do not get there. Most of us are doing well if we can hold onto one Christlike thing at a time. But the ones who can are radiant. They shine like stars in a troubled world, and those who hold onto more than one … you don’t need me to tell you what they are like. They are people who have touched your heart and transformed you for good.
Just like the Bible. Just like Jesus.
What does your life reveal that you believe in? What do you wish it revealed? How would you get there?
*Mark Salzman, Lying Awake, p. 7. This is a truly wonderful and rich novel (just in case you were looking for one to read this summer).
One of my favorite books. I heard him talk about the writing of it. Going to Santa Fe in the midst of a terrible storm and finding his way to a convent and his first meeting with the nun who became his close friend and mentor as he wrote the book. I think that I have the essay he wrote in the New Yorker about writing Lying Awake. I ‘ll look for it for you. Janice