I often experience when I read books and investigate different subjects that I regularly hit upon the same realities. I am more tempted to think that I am reading into these writings somehow, but I have come to understand that "spiritual reading" can be a matter of receiving.
From an early age I was taught to read like most people. I read for information and for comprehension. I learned to distill what I read to basic ideas or depersonalized facts. Reading for information only, I can distance myself from the facts; I can pick and choose what suits me. I may ask what can it do for me? How will I benefit from it or more specifically how can I use it? While admiring good writing, I learn to summarize, glean the main thesis and I make every effort to pack these facts into my brain falsely believing that just having more information will change my life.
Unless I internalize or take in what I have read it will never change me. I have always appreciated what the writer of the Book of James says about this concerning Scripture, “Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like” (1:23-24). In a modern day parable involving his grandson Eugene Peterson shows that Scripture “depersonalized into an object to be honored, …detached from precedence and consequence… perpetuates a lifetime of reading marked by devout indifference.”
In his latest book Peterson draws on the prophetic experience of Ezekiel, Jeremiah and the Apostle John. Eat this Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading reflects on the nature of our Holy Scriptures. He explains that Scripture is more than informational it is formational. The Spirit uses it to shape us into what God intends for us. In this way we present ourselves to become more like God’s Son. “The book, the Bible, reveals the self-revealing God and along with that the way the world is, the way life is, the way we are. We need to know the lay of the land that we are living in. We need to know what is involved in this country of the Trinity, the world of God’s creation and salvation and blessing.” (34).
Spiritual reading is personal and participatory, receiving the words in such a way that they become interior to our lives, the rhythms and images becoming practices of prayer, acts of obedience, ways of love (28). We depersonalize the text when we read for information or just what we can get from the text whether it be inspiration, instruction or comfort. We may be in danger of using the Word for our own ends and therefore miss the formative nature of the life revealing text.
"Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more: 'Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.’ So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, "Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey" (NIV, Rev. 10:8-9).