So I have a problem. I know the following admission may be startling coming from a pastor, but I don't know how many of my parishioners read my blog anyway, and I know that none of you will tell them.
What's my problem?
My devotional life. But maybe not for the reason you are thinking.
I don't know about you, but I have struggled to find that devotional experience which has lifted my spirits consistently into heavenly places. And the devotional experiences that do excite me I have been told are "wrong."
For example: in the Seminary - and other places that talk about one's devotional life - we are told in our Spiritual Formation class that we are supposed to have devotions that are purely, well, devotional. So when I read from the Bible, I am not supposed to worry about Hebrew or Greek or the true meaning of what someone is saying. I am supposed to read from the four Gospel accounts and imagine each scene, soaking in the imagery, the sights, the smells, the sounds.
The problem is, such a devotional experience doesn't do much for me. I am going through Luke right now and, although there have been moments of bliss, those moments have been few and far between. Part of that has to do with familiarity, I believe, and the fact that a lot of the stories I have read over and over again.
Such thoughts have made me feel guilty. "What's wrong with me?" I wonder, "Why can't I just read a passage from the Gospels and feel like I'm on Cloud Nine?"
And then I came to an interesting realization: when it comes to Ellen White as well, I am much more blessed by Steps to Christ than The Desire of Ages. In fact, I read Steps to Christ over and over again and am blessed afresh every time I read it. Similarly, when it comes to the Bible, I have enjoyed delving into Paul's epistles more than the Gospel accounts.
Why is this? Because I enjoy theological concepts and discoveries more than I do stories - which is somewhat ironic because I really do enjoy stories and I often fill my preaching and writing with them. But I much prefer digging for theological truth in the Bible than engaging in an exercise in futility where I am mindlessly trying to come up with some type of mystical feelings that derive from a "devotional" reading of a parable or story.
Does this make me a bad person? I hope not; otherwise, I'm in trouble. The reality is, everyone relates to and delights in God differently. And I, for one, think it is very damaging when people insist - whether explicitly or implicitly - that we should only go about our devotional time without trying to discover some deeper theological truth. This is honestly what people have told me in the past.
So this morning I set aside Luke for a little while and I decided to simply start in the book of Psalms and read it through in Hebrew. I only read chapter one, but what a blessing! There is something about reading scripture in the original languages that totally excites me. It opens up a whole new world and allows me to go deeper. And if devotions are supposed to be "shallow," then I am not sure I want anything to do with them.
I would love to hear anyone else's thoughts on their devotional experiences. What do you do that excites you?