My husband found my chocolate stash, and there was much celebrating in our house. I had hidden the silver-wrapped bars safely in a corner of the cupboard for my future pleasure and forgotten where they were! I have no idea who I was hiding them from. My man doesn’t care for dark chocolate and there is not another chocolate-loving soul in our house.(Did I mention our nest is empty? What I wouldn’t give to share a chocolate bar with a man/child today.)
I must have been protecting myself from over-indulgence or simply stockpiling for the future. Whatever the case, I promptly popped a square into my mouth.
In heaven there will be chocolate.
Consuming that bit of chocolate was a highlight of my morning. I lead a simple life and find joy in simple pleasures — like dark chocolate and really good coffee.
Savoring that moment of sweetness drew me back to a book I’ve been nibbling on over the past several months, “Eat This Book” by Eugene Peterson.
I consider Peterson to be one of the “Saints Among Us” and I am eternally grateful to him for bringing the Word of God into our lives through his paraphrase The Message. I met Peterson a few years ago when I heard him speak at a conference. To say I am a fan is an understatement.
Peterson takes the name of his book from Scripture, the Revelation of St. John:
“I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll; and he said to me, “Take it, and eat; it will be bitter to your stomach, but sweet as honey in your mouth.” And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it; it was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter. Revelation 10:9-10
Peterson maintains that how we read Scripture is as important as that we read it. The subtitle of his book is “A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading”.
“Eating a book takes it all in, assimilating it into the tissues of our lives,” says Peterson. “Readers become what they read. If Holy Scripture is to be something other than mere gossip about God, it must be internalized.”
Peterson says Christians do not just read God’s inspired Word, they take it into their lives, applying it to their relationships, decisions and worship, their view of the world.
Peterson continues: “….what we need (in reading the Bible) is not primarily informational, telling us things about God and ourselves, but formational, shaping us into our true being.”
Long before the beginning of Christ’s ministry, the founding of His church or the revelation of St. John, Ezekiel and Jeremiah received similar commands (Ezek. 2:8-3:3 and Jer. 15:15). All three of them (John, Ezekiel and Jeremiah) were lured to consider other writings and teachings of their time — as are we in our world today. God gave instructions that for them were very literal. They were to consume the book, digest it and let it nourish their faith.
Faced with so much that is in contrast and contradiction to our Christian beliefs today, we would do well to heed the commands God issued in times that were no less challenging than ours.
Eat the Book.
Pull it from the back of the top shelf. Unroll the scroll. Unwrap and open the pages. Taste and savor their contents. Spend time in the Book, asking others (through reliable authors, teachers and mentors) what different passages mean. Consider how a story or song sheds light on the life you’ve been given. Pray about what you’ve read.
I understand those who take on the task of reading the entire Bible in one year, and I may accept that challenge some day. But for the moment, I’d rather take it in slowly, savoring the inspired Words of God, letting them roll around on my tongue, filling my stomach and seeping into my flesh. It’s nourishment that I need for my hungry soul.
“Then he said to me, ‘Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it.’ So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.” Ezekiel 3:3
You can read an excellent interview with Eugene Peterson (who turns 81 in November) and view a video of the conversation at Religion News Service by going here.