When I was in high school, I wanted so desperately to be cool. I wasn’t a poseur, per se, I was just sensitive; self-aware to a fault and I wanted to be “in” where the cool stuff was happening. I had a friend who went to my church and my school. One time she embarrassed me in the hallway by approaching me at my locker, in the midst of my peers, and invited me to “Bible Shtudy.” It sounded like that because she wore braces and had a lisp. How mortifying.
Bible Study, with or without braces, is anything but cool. I mean, Bibles are so awkward. Big, heavy, leather-bound; so serious. Apps for devotional edification might mask this un-cool-ness with obscurity and hip features, but don’t let them fool you. Reading your Bible, whether to learn or to grow, neither of these is “cool.”
And yet, there’s something mysterious and life-giving when you commit to reading the Bible. (I’ve recently been revamping my practices of prayer and study; see last week’s blog.) I’m diligent each day to read – at least a little bit, especially the Old Testament readings, because they’re just not as familiar. I’ve found myself reading First and Second Chronicles thinking: “say what?” Ezra-Nehemiah, “seriously?” and now, the book of Esther, letting out audible sighs and also thinking, “this is unreal.” Maybe I just don’t get out much. But mostly, I’m enjoying this new old practice.
And somethings never change.
I don’t want to spoil the ancient narratives for you, but the sobering parts of Esther involve overlooked heroes because of ethnicity. Thankfully King Ahasuerus had a bout of insomnia and decided to read the meeting minutes of his empire – ancient dose of Lunesta – and discovered that a Jewish man had saved his life. “Why had this man not been rewarded?” The king ponders at 3 a.m., (I’m guessing), and the answer is because he was Jewish; what awaited Mordecai was death not recognition.
A friend and I had coffee yesterday before she left for college. My young friend mentioned that she’d been reading Between the World and Me, a troubling memoir and history lesson, written by the prophetic Ta-Nehesi Coates. “Have you read this book?” she asked me. I confessed, that I have started it many times. What compelled me to pick it up again was something my she learned. Coates writes about “monuments” that were never built; like an acknowledgement of ground zero for slave trade in Manhattan. “I had stood on the spot where slavery was happening hundreds of years ago,” my friend said, of her recent trip to New York City, “and I didn’t even know it!”
Being a student of the Bible, and our own fractured nation, neither of these are necessarily ‘cool.’ But each can illumine our lives and chip away at our soullessness. We can learn about a people who came before us, we can glimpse injustices that continue to repeat themselves over millennia, and not only that – we can grow, hopefully for the better.
And we may even find ourselves in the midst of these readings asking: “Say what?” “Seriously?” and “For real?”
Thanks for Reading.