Editor’s Note: The following is excerpted from Scouting the Divine: Searching for God in Wine, Wool, and Wild Honey, the newest release from Threads.
While some dismiss the Bible as a dusty old book, I tend to view the pages as portals to the adventure of a lifetime. Not only are the passages chock-full of clever plots, compelling stories, and unforgettable characters, they’re laced with historical insights and literary beauty. When I open my well-worn leather Bible, I imagine myself walking into an ancient kingdom. As I cross into this foreign land, I imagine a castle with too many banquet halls and bedrooms to count—secret hallways, underground passages, and trap doors abound for the most inquisitive visitors.
With every turn, I find myself in the presence of kings and queens, princes and prophets, pilgrims and poets sharing their stories of courage and faith. With every encounter, I learn something new about their life journeys. Some of their stories are downright despicable and shockingly frank. Others are simply remarkable: Men who wrestled with lions and bears, women and children who saved nations, and an Unforgettable who chose death so we could live.
The more time I spend in this ancient kingdom, the more I notice that every person’s story—even the most unexpected ones—tells the greater story of God and His unabashed love of humanity. With time, I’m learning about their internal struggles, the unimaginable hardships, and the unexpected parallels to my own story that emerge as they follow God. With every morsel of discovery, something inside of me comes alive.
Closing my Bible, I often find the stories haunt me. Sometimes it’s a single phrase or sentence or someone in the narrative I had noticed before but never really taken time to get to know. On rare occasions I stumble upon a rich life lesson that transforms me forever.
Now there are plenty of days I try to enter this ancient kingdom and only feel the distance between that world and my own. Instead of riveting stories, I find the accounts flat, stiff, even dull. In quiet misery I shut the book, secretly hoping, even praying, that next time will be better. Sometimes those days run into weeks and months as if the trapdoors have been nailed shut, the banquet hall emptied, not a scrap of conversation or sustenance to be found. Then quite unexpectedly I’ll return, and once again the kingdom is alive, full, and overflowing. What’s the difference? Maybe it’s me. I don’t know.
But I suspect that Lucy from C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe shared similar feelings when she discovered the door at the back of the wardrobe permanently closed. Like Lucy, I’m constantly waiting for winks in time when the portal opens and I can experience the vibrancy of a world that at times seems far more real than my own. Sometimes those flashes come in response to a simple prayer, God, help me see You, or during an extended time of reflection and study. Often they appear while mining through commentaries, translations, ancient word meanings, and even history books in an effort to touch the texture of the text. Occasionally they occur when a particular theme of Scripture is unexpectedly illuminated during a conversation, a film, or an art exhibit. But with every luminescent moment of discovery, I find myself hungering for more.
Why? Because I have this hunch that when aged Scriptures come alive in our contemporary hearts, they don’t inform us as much as they transform us. When the good Book connects to our world and envelops our lives, our attitudes, actions, and behaviors change. We become more than good people, we become godly ones who can’t help but walk, talk, and live differently. I ache for those instances when promises and teachings from long ago crystallize in spiritual awakening.
Scouting the Divine is a personal spiritual pilgrimage to understand portions of the story of God that I’ve never understood before. It’s an intentional search to move from just reading the Bible to being ushered into the story—one that can be touched, tasted, heard, seen, and smelled. I want to experience the life that is inherent in the Bible in such a way that it deepens my faith in God and my hope for that which is still to come. In some ways, I think we’re all “Scouting the Divine”—looking for ways in which God intersects our world in vibrant expressions.
Interestingly, my own journey began nearly a decade ago in a distant land long before I ever realized I had taken the first step or knew where I was going—but then again, that’s often how the best ones begin. My pilgrimage began with a shepherdess I met during my first summer in Alaska. The next thing I knew I was in southern Colorado with a passionate, hardworking beekeeper. Then I was on my way to Nebraska to walk the fields with a farmer’s nephew. Soon after, I traveled to California to listen and learn about vines from a veteran grape grower.
My desire was simply to spend time with people whose lives revolved around biblical themes. I had a feeling that their experiences would jimmy the lock to unknown meaning and depth in Scripture. I got far more than I ever could’ve imagined.
Through conversations and interactions in warm living rooms and wet fields, I experienced Scripture in a way I never had before. My adventure further illuminated the rift between the world I live in and the ancient world Jesus spoke from. As if culture and time weren’t significant enough disconnects, people in the Bible lived in agrarian societies. When the prophets—including Jesus—spoke of sheep and shepherds, bees and honey, fields and harvests, grapes and vines, listeners understood their references in ways that I simply don’t.
How can I truly understand what Jesus meant when He described Himself as the Good Shepherd or the Lamb of God when the only places I’ve encountered sheep are at caged petting zoos and presented medium-well on a plate at fancy restaurants? How can I comprehend the meaning of the promised land as a place overflowing with milk and honey when I normally buy the sugary sweetness in a plastic, bear-shaped container at my local grocery store? How can I grasp the urgency of Jesus’ declaration that the fields are ripe for harvest when I’ve never lived on a farm? And how can I embrace the fullness of what it means to abide in Him when I buy my grapes at Costco?
With such a natural disconnect, it’s no wonder that spending time with these men and women in their fields and barns taking in the sights, sounds, and smells allowed me to experience Scripture in unprecedented ways. It has jump-started a desire for deeper study and reminded me once again that Scripture truly is alive.