Thursday, July 19, 2007

Journaling through John

I've been spending a lot of time in The Gospel of John lately. Journaling through John, I call it. Each morning I read a little, then scribble down my thoughts concerning the passage. Often I stay with a brief passage for several days, but I'm keenly aware that I can never exhaust all that there is to say or think about a passage. Whatever exegetical insights or wisdom I am able to summon up in my journal would probably not seem like much to anyone else. The point is not to impress some imaginary reader, nor is it to compile notes toward a future book or something (such thoughts, I find, are death to a fruitful journaling process). The point is simply to start each day thinking about Scripture, and it so happens that writing your thoughts down is a useful way to encourage clear thinking.

My method is pretty simple. I try to see each passage in its context. I'm pretty rigorous about that part. I try to place myself on the scene, hear the words of Jesus as if for the first time. I try to hang on to recurring themes and strands of meaning that seem to thread through the Gospel of John from start to finish. Often I copy passages down word for word; other times I try to restate them in my own words. Although I'm generally a great fan of Bible commentaries, I never consult them for the text I'm working with (well, with but one exception, as I recall). I try not to satisfy myself with easy or self-assuring applications. I do try to let the passage question me.

On that last point, let me give you an example. Toward the end of chapter 15 Jesus says that if the world hated him, it will also hate his disciples. They will be so closely associated with him that the connection will be undeniable. Those who find in Jesus their rest and peace, will find an echo of those things in his disciples. Those who find in Jesus only their own shame, will probably find in a Jesus-disciple a sense of accusation (no matter how unwarranted). Well, to let this passage question you is simply to ask yourself, is this true of me? Am I a Jesus-disciple of whom it can be said, people respond to me even as they would have responded to Jesus? Is my connection to Jesus that apparent? That real? The answer to these question are a matter for your private contemplation, but you get the point.

In time I may share here at the blog some lessons I've learned from this extended time with John's Gospel, but for now it's a part of my private world, if you will. All I can say is, the process has been very fruitful for me. To journal through the Scriptures in this way you need, most of all, time. A consistent chunk of time each day (no less than half-an-hour, I suppose). It's also helpful to use a notebook and a writing instrument that you feel very comfortable with (something special, not just a drugstore spiral-bound and ballpoint). And of course you need the Helper.


NaNcY said...

thank you

Joshua Otte said...

Bob...I just noticed your nod to my blog about The Children of Hurin. Great read...just finished it and getting ready for a post. Probably will write in on my vacation.

So we live down the road from each other?! Crazy stuff.

We seem to have a ton of similar interests: theological, literary, etc. and music (?).

Any way drop me an email sometime. Would love to hang out.