Tuesday, February 17, 2009

How to read a love letter

A friend forwarded this to me today, from some sort of devotional email list. It connects to a discussion in my women's group this morning.

When your words came, I ate them;
They were my joy and my heart's delight,
For I bear your name, O Lord God Almighty.
Jeremiah 15:16

"Mortimer J. Adler in his classic How to Read A Book makes this insightful observation. "The one time people read for all they are worth is when they are in love and are reading a letter from their beloved." Adler goes on to say that folks read love letters by analyzing every word. They even read between the lines and the margins. The whole is read in terms of the parts, and each part in terms of the whole. The reader becomes sensitive to context and ambiguity, to insinuation and implication. When reading a love letter there is an acute awareness of the color of the words, the order of phrases, and the weight of sentences. Punctuation is taken into account and the imagination is aroused. If never before, or after, each precious word of the letter is read carefully and in depth.

Drawing on Adler's comments, the New York Times published a review for How to Read A Book under the heading, "How to Read a Love Letter." The reviewer noted that when we read a letter from our beloved, it is read so thoroughly and with so many questions, that soon the reader can quote the content by heart. And, in fact, does so—to him- or herself—for weeks to come. The review ended with the conclusion that if people read books with anything approaching the same concentration and zeal, we'd be a race of mental giants!

Using Adler's words and the New York Times review, ponder for a moment what would happen if we read the Bible—God's perpetual love letter to His beloved—with the same zeal! We would indeed be a race of "spiritual giants," mature in our faith and able to withstand the wiles of the enemy. With God's Word hidden in our hearts and echoing in our mind, there would be no room left for Satan to inject doubts and fears! Answers to life's questions and perplexities would come easily. Our prayers would be powerful and effective. All of nature would become our classroom. We would walk in harmony with God and enjoy the intimate fellowship with Him for which we were created.

Now ask yourself another question: when was the last time you read the Bible as if it were a precious love letter? When reading Scripture do you hang on every word and read between the lines and margins? Have you seen the whole in terms of the parts and the parts in terms of the whole? Do the words take on colors and arouse your imagination? Or is Scripture reading just another obligation you must fulfill before you go about the busyness of your life, unaffected by the precious words you gulped down rather than savored and allowed to permeate every fiber of your being? Jeremiah tells us that God's words are to be our joy and our heart's delight.

Today I invite you to read God's word with the heart of a lover. Learn to delight in your beloved because He delights in you and invites you to enjoy Him forever."

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