My journey with Scripture


By Gordon Houser


I grew up in a fairly nonreligious family in Emporia, Kan. While my mother attended the local Methodist church semiregularly and we kids went to Sunday school through catechism (junior high), then dropped out, there were no prayers at the table, no devotions, no talk of faith at home.

Then, at age 15, I gave myself to Jesus, alone in my room, and for the rest of high school, I stumbled along in my faith, going to church and reading the Bible, though I understood little of it.

In college I connected with a local Baptist church that emphasized the study of Scripture. After a year and a half at universities, I transferred to a Bible college in Kansas City, Mo., drawn there by a hunger to learn all I could from the Bible. While the school was proudly fundamentalist, I had teachers who were committed to giving their students the tools to study Scripture on their own. After two years there, I left (that’s a longer story) and transferred to Wichita State University, where in two years I finished a degree in linguistics.

But my journey with Scripture had taken a turn. I’d developed the idea that the Bible should be able to answer any question that came up. The more I studied, however, the more I realized that this was not only naïve but misplaced. As I’ve described this turn to others, I no longer felt I could carry God in my pocket. God is a mystery ultimately beyond human understanding. Meanwhile, while Scripture is a helpful tool in understanding God’s ways, it is just that, a tool, not something to be worshiped.

Over the years, as I’ve studied Scripture, I’ve grown more aware and appreciative of its complexity. At the same time, it continues to give me insights into God’s triune nature and our world.

I’ve also benefitted from some practices using Scripture:

  1. Lectio Divina (divine reading) can be done individually or in a group. Someone reads a passage from Scripture, then reads it again. Each person listens for a word or phrase that jumps out at them. The passage is read again, and each person listens again for a word or phrase, which may very well be the same as before. After the final reading, each person listens for how they are called to apply that word or phrase to their life.
  2. Praying the Scripture (or Gospel Contemplation) involves reading a passage, usually from the Gospels, then imagining yourself in that passage. With your imagination, involve your senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch) and see where the story takes you. If, for example, it’s a story from Jesus’ life, what does Jesus say to you?
  3. Simply reading Scripture helps you become familiar with it. One benefit is that it helps understand much of Western literature if you, like me, love literature. A story: When I was in an English literature class at Wichita State, I was able to answer some questions about references to Scripture in some passages from literature. An eager literature student came up to me after class and asked me how I knew Scripture so well. I said, “I read it.” There are no shortcuts.