Eating God's words

Tales from the Unending Story

January 15, 2020 | Opinion | Volume 24 Issue 2
Joshua Penfold | Columnist
(Image by congerdesign/Pixabay)

Two years ago I embarked on a Bible reading challenge. What started as an attempt to read the Bible in a year, morphed into a slower reading and reflection practice.

I realized I didn’t want to read everything just to say I had. I wanted to engage with Scripture, wrestle with it, let it speak to me, challenge me, even confuse me. I wanted Scripture reading to be a treasure, not a task. I wanted the story of Scripture to interact with my story, recognizing they are two parts of the same grand unending story of God.

So I slowed down my reading and took to social media to share my reflections, encouraging response and interaction from others. I’m excited—and a bit terrified—to offer some of my reflections here as well.

Most recently I’ve been reading through the Book of Jeremiah.

“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, NIV).

The image of eating God’s words is intriguing and lovely, like a delicious dish offered in the midst of a famine. I’m not sure if God’s words were a delight, because Jeremiah was glad to see God’s judgment coming to pass on a sinful people, or if Jeremiah delighted in his relationship with God and hung on every word he received. Is it a spiteful delight or a devotional delight, or something else altogether?

Either way, this image makes me ponder how we interact or respond to God’s words, or if we even give ourselves an opportunity to receive them.

This past fall, as job situations in our home changed, I became the primary meal maker. My wife’s days are long and full, so I help my daughters with breakfast, make their lunch, and usually I’m home in time to have supper made so we can all enjoy it as a family.

It’s been a joy to contribute to our family in this way and make space for Rebecca in her new job. I’ve even introduced a few new dishes to my family.

Meatless Monday has been a new endeavour, making falafels for the first time. The meal was received very differently within our family. The adults were excited to try something new, but my girls were terrified, reluctant and disappointed they had to venture into new culinary territory.

Could this be how we sometimes approach eating God’s words? It didn’t really matter to my girls that the adults were gobbling up these new dishes, praising how tasty they were. They were not interested in trying something new, and its health factor didn’t make a lick of difference. 

How do we receive God’s words? Through Scripture reading, prayer, music, spiritual conversations, nature, to name a few. How do we approach these activities? Do we reluctantly poke at them, like my kids at the table? Do we nibble the parts we’re willing to try while avoiding the “gross parts,” which may actually be the tastiest and most wonderful part of the meal? 

Do we reluctantly eat some things because we’re told they’re healthy, or have our pallets matured so that we can appreciate the various flavours of Scripture: tasting the bitter, the tangy, the spicy, rather than just the sweet and salty that young taste buds prefer?

Like a child learning to appreciate eating different foods, it takes time, maturing, exposure and practise to learn to delight in eating all of God’s words, or at least tasting them before deciding what we think.

Joshua Penfold loves reading this bewildering, bizarre and beautiful book called The Bible. He lives near Tavistock, Ont., with his wife Rebecca and two girls, Ellie, 9, and Ruth, 6, and is employed as a support worker for a number of individuals with various diagnoses.

(Image by congerdesign/Pixabay)

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