Friday, October 28, 2016

For when scripture study feels stale

From time to time I find myself at a stage when it is hard to find new things to learn in the scriptures and then it becomes hard to get myself to read the scriptures.  You may experience this from time to time too.

I feel very lucky that I got advice from my mom about this.  I mentioned to her my problem some years ago, and it turned out that she was the perfect person to help because she was very diligent at scripture study. She had been doing it a lot longer than I had. 

She told me, “Satan would like you to think that it is boring so that you stop doing it. But it just means you need to find a new way to study that excites you.”  This had a great impact on me, and I still think about it from time to time. 

She also shared with me different ways that she had studied the scriptures. At one point she was very focused on studying by topic.  At another point, her study consisted of meticulously copying down in full in a notebook every single scripture listed in the Topical Guide about Christ.  (It took her months and months. I remember seeing her working on that, and it was special to see my mother take her study so seriously in order to learn more.)

While I wasn’t particularly interested in trying those particular methods, hearing about them helped me see that there were potentially a bunch of different ways to study the scriptures.  Of course, I felt at sea at first because I didn’t know 1) how to find a new method or 2) how to know if I would like a new study method.  I was a little worried that it would take me a long time to find my next method.

Since then, I’ve also learned that finding process sometimes it takes some time. I think I'm a little more comfortable with those transition points now. I have to try different things. It helps to follow my curiosity. It helps to seek out resources and books.  (I suspect that one of the useful things about scripture commentaries is simply how they may offer a different perspective that can make the scriptures new and help us find new study methods.)

Two things I would always do, no matter my method: 1) pray to be edified before starting and 2) write what I learn in a scripture journal.

I didn’t use to pray before reading, but someone I trusted and respected recommended it, so I decided to experiment with that. (I just wish I could remember who told me so I could thank them.) Anyway, it really made a difference. There have been times that I’ve forgotten to pray first, but I can say for sure that every single time I remembered, the Lord always answered my prayer. 

I didn’t use to write when I discovered something cool in the scriptures. But at some point, I felt like I was learning such cool stuff I didn’t want to forget it. That drove me to write it down somewhere.   So I wrote it in my personal journal.  Those types of journal entries started to increase to the point that it started to feel like they were crowding out life-event stuff.  Finally, a seminary pre-service class I took had an assignment to write down scripture insights every day in a notebook. I loved that assignment so much that I continued it after that class ended, and that’s how I realized it was permissible and desirable for me to have a scripture journal as well as a personal journal.

What do you do when you’re trying to find a new way to study the scriptures?  What practices stay the same for you?


Rozy Lass said...

Listening to them opened them up to me in a whole new way! I have the old tapes, with Alexander Scourby who made the Old Testament come alive! That is one way to study them differently. I use a dictionary a lot so that I understand words, not just think I do. I do a lot of cross referencing too. I look up the footnotes and use the topical guide and dictionary and even the maps to better understand what, where and who.
Other than that, I think you are already doing the right things and what you share here is amazing. I wish you were my visiting teacher!

Michaela Stephens said...

Thanks for sharing those things, Rozy Lass. I'm always glad if anything I write helps or inspires. Even if we can't meet in person, I'm glad I know you at least online.