catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 8, Num 6 :: 2009.03.13 — 2009.03.27


When the Word became that figure in the mirror

There was a long period of time when I just couldn’t read it. Don’t get me wrong-I tried. And tried. And tried. But this one wasn’t like The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Or Pippi Longstocking. Or any other one of a number of texts I’d re-read dozens of times in my younger years. It just wasn’t that easy to find a mood in which to read it.

Of course, this was a different book than all of those. I’d read this one on my own several times, but I’d also heard it read aloud more times than I can count. Its metaphors had pulsed their way into my bloodstream. I knew all of its parts intimately and could thumb my way through its pages faster than anyone else, and answer trivia questions about it better than any Trekkie could answer questions about Romulans. That’s right-the words of the Word had become my flesh.

That was part of the problem, actually. See, who of us modern women, with the negative things the world around us says about our bodily shapes, likes all of our flesh, much less finds it exciting?

Sure, the people in the building down the street might try to tell you that your body image is wrong and that you ought not to take the gift of your flesh for granted, but when you look at yourself in the mirror, all you can see is that awkward vision of your body that’s been stuck in your head since junior high. You are so used to that vision, that narrative about your flesh that runs like a stuck record through your head, that it can take a long time to break through and see your flesh in a new way, even if you want to so badly that it hurts.

It was that way for me with the words of that Word that had become my flesh. I had looked in that mirror, heard the stories of the Bible and read those stories so many times growing up, that my junior-high and high-school interpretations of the Christian life that accompanied them rang in my head when I heard them, even though I was now well into young adulthood. This had come to be a problem, because I had come to recognize that in order for me to keep growing in Christ, at least some of those interpretations would have to go.

See, as a junior-higher and high-schooler, I had many good qualities, but I also had many bad ones. I was terribly self-righteous. I was prideful. I was awfully snobbish about those who did not like things within Christian (pop) culture; or, for that matter, didn’t want to attend twelve Bible studies every week. I loved God passionately, and I sought to be what I thought He wanted me to be. But that often stopped me from recognizing that that very desire, too, needed to be laid before Him.

I had become a young adult who knew that the Christian self I saw in the mirror needed revision. I didn’t think I needed to change either the Word-made-flesh or the Word-made-words, but I needed to change my image of the Christian life, which had become for me inextricably bound up with what I heard when I read the Bible in its familiar contexts. I wasn’t going to leave the church, or, for that matter, the Bible, to do it, but I needed to chew on the Word in a new way to give up that idea of myself as the perfect Christian person.

And so I took the plunge. I gave up reading the Bible in the way they tell you to read it in Protestant circles. I stayed in my church, but I also started to learn about the ways other Christian authors and denominations outside of my own approached the Christian life, and in time, the vision began to be reshaped. Like the forming of the image of a puzzle, the Bible – and its attendant version of the Christian life – was put together for me in a new way.

It’s now been years since this process started in young adulthood, and I’m no more perfect now than I was in high school-if anything, I’m more aware of my failings than ever. Heck, I now know I can’t even read/hear/study/absorb/memorize/get quizzed on all the contents of the Bible a measly dozens and dozens of times over a couple dozen years without it becoming attached to unhealthy visions of the Christian life. Like the modern woman looking in a mirror, I’m not what I would like to be as a Christian, and don’t see myself getting there all that soon.

But the thing is, I’ve now been given the grace to start seeing again in a fresh way, and that allows me both to see and to read the Bible again afresh.

And for that, I am truly thankful.

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