In his sweeping, The Book Thief, author Markus Zusak has the narrator say this of the child and chief character, Liesel – Somewhere inside her were the souls of words.
If you’re a logophile, that phrase comes off as utterly majestic, doesn’t it.
As I read that expression and took in the beauty of it, another reality came to my mind. I immediately thought of not only the potential and intent of words… but of Word.
More specifically, with a nod to the girl known as the book thief, I have to ask myself – do I carry the soul of the Word, inside me? Do I move beyond just knowing what the Word says to having it abide within me as a living, breathing presence?
For scripture is most surely a living thing. Hebrews 4 says the Word is alive and powerful (v12).
The above statement is one of objective reality. It is an ontological fact. The Word is alive and powerful whether I believe that to be so, or not… whether I wish it were so, or not. Like all objective realities, the statement in Hebrews 4 stands regardless of my take on the matter.
But this objective reality does precious little for me subjectively. It’s like knowing the objective reality that a blanket can warm me, for example. That fact does nothing for me subjectively until I actually wrap myself in a blanket and experience the warming.
So it is with the truth of the aliveness of the Word. It does precious little for me and in me unless I can truly say of myself – Somewhere inside me is the soul of the Word.
If the Word does not do that within me it is not accomplishing its intended purpose.
King David (Ps 119:103) illustrates my point. He says, as he is in converse with God, your words are sweet to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.
This isn’t an objective proposition – honey is sweet.
Rather, David is giving us the subjective voice of experience – I personally taste your words (Word) and the taste is better than that of the finest honey.
Somewhere inside him was the soul of Word.
But how. Right?
How do we do our part (for God will surely do his) to see to it that the soul of the Word is within us?
Three suggestions come to mind.
Most basically, it’s important that we read the Word. Simply read it.
Scripture is being increasingly marginalized in both the church and in the life of professing Christians in America. The amount of Biblical illiteracy – among those who name themselves Christian – is astonishing.
We give the Holy Spirit so very little to work with when we marginalize the Word. This is unfortunate (if not ironic) when we realize that the Spirit-catalyzed Word within us is the chief tool of real transformation in the life of a believer.
Second to this, I need to consider the state I’m in when I read the Word. Specifically, where am I in my mind as I am reading? More specifically still, am I present?
Am I quiet of mind or all over the place, as we say, in my thoughts? Can I even repeat the gist of the passage I have just read? I don’t mean quote it verbatim. I mean just summarize it?
What about my emotions (heart)? Do I come to the page ready to receive… to hear… to see?
Is my heart tuned at that moment to behold wondrous things from the Word, as David puts it?
To the matter of mind and heart preparation I would add this. Slow down.
If I may borrow a template from Gandhi – there is more to reading the Word than increasing the speed.
Slow down. Let it breath. See. Hear.
A third suggestion I would make is that you begin with prayer. (That’s a great way to focus the mind and heart, by the way.)
Do you recall my mentioning above the words of David about beholding wondrous things in the Word? What I didn’t say is that the passage begins with a prayer. It goes, Open my eyes, that I may behold….
David is saying, Father, I cannot see spiritual truth unless you open my spiritual eyes.
What a wise prayer… and what an important truth to remember.
I can’t speak for others, but my experience has always been that God will not vie for my attention. I need to prepare myself if I expect to hear from the King as I read the Word. My mind and my heart must be present.
That spiritual furnace of decades past, A. W. Tozer, said the world is dying for the lack of the knowledge of God and the church is dying for lack of his presence.
I think I probably contribute to this sad fact if it cannot be said of me that somewhere inside him is the soul of the Word.