I mentioned last week that I’m not much of a Bible person, and it’s true. It creates some challenges as a seminarian who is tasked with reading, analyzing, and thinking critically about the Bible. A good number of my issues with the Bible stem from the two years I spent in a Charismatic Christian school as an 8th and 9th grader. I have a lot to say about those two years and my experiences at the school, but that’s not going to happen today. What I do want to say today is that I was scared of the Bible for a long time. I still am. It came to represent anxiety, judgment, and outsider-status for me, and it still does, in many ways. This factored into my nervousness in approaching the first day of school.
In the most amazing first day of school moments, my New Testament Narratives professor gave us a gem. He urged us to “think of the Bible as a library of contextual voices”, rather than as a rule book. This is so grounding for me, as libraries have been (mostly, with one very large exception) havens in my world, and voices from libraries have guided me on all of my most important journeys.
Today was my eighth wedding anniversary. My husband and I watched our wedding video with our three year old tonight, and I was struck by 1. how very young he was when I married him, 2. how very nervous I was at the start of the ceremony, and 3. how many poems we had as part of our ceremony.
I’ve always found my way through poetry, through books, through the voices that make up my own personal library. I go back today to a poem from our wedding, the first text read, that framed the entire ceremony which took place in the Fall under the many aspen trees of our camp in the Southwestern Colorado Sangre de Cristos. Read by a dear friend from college, and printed in our program, “the lessons of the falling leaves”.
“the lesson of the falling leaves” by Lucille Clifton
the trees believe
such letting go is love
such love is faith
such faith is grace
such grace is god
with the leaves
Lucille Clifton was first a voice in my college poetry anthology, where I read “Homage to My Hips” and “Poem in Praise of Menstruation”, among others. I circled, starred, underlined, highlighted. Her powerful words resonated within me and made me feel powerful, too. On the day I married my husband, her words were again there, soothing this time, telling me to let go, to trust, to simply believe. And here I am again, eight years later, at the start of a very new, very unexpected journey, surrounded by new voices – but she’s still there. I can’t help but wonder now if she was there at my wedding so that I’d be brought back to this poem now, when I really, really, truly do need it.
Even though I now read the Bible with a critical lens – all the others are still there, too. In the moments when I’m too nervous, when I find myself needing to take deep, shaky breaths, when I don’t quite see how I fit in, when I’m too much teacher and not enough peer, when I’m defensive and protective, when I’m wanting to dig deep, when I yearn for community – I’m surrounded by the library of my voices that have provided context all throughout my journey.
Lucille, Anne, Donald, Ina, Barbara, Laura, C.S., Katherine, Maya, David, Isabel, Margaret, Mitch, Patrick, Toni, John, Ann, Erich, Oscar, J.K., Julie, Tim, Louisa, Beverly, Greg, Judy, Ayn, Kurt, Charles, Alice, Langston, Harper, Lucy, and so very many more: thank you. For the safety, the sense of self, the exploration, the understanding, the beauty, the heartbreak, the peace, the curiosity.