O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Today's Devotional Insight...
Trembling in My Hands
I was 14 years old when the Bible started to tremble in my hands. Raised in a Baptist church in north Nashville, having “walked the aisle” six years earlier, my experience in and of church was much like anyone else’s. It was 1971—the year that Apollo 15 landed on the moon, James Taylor released “Mud Slide Slim,” and Mount Etna erupted. But all these were insignificant compared to the fact that the Bible began to tremble for me.
Up until that time, it was motionless, lying on the desk beside my bed where occasionally I would scan a paragraph or two before falling asleep. Every Sunday, I would carry it, unmoving and inert, under my arm to church. In Sunday school, there was “sword drill.” The leader would command, “Swords up!” as we prepared to race each other to find an obscure verse. My sword, so still and static, was never quite quick enough to win. Though I obediently opened its soft leather cover, the Bible remained a closed book for me. The words on the page remained words on the page. But all that was about to change.
A Teacher and a Community
I had heard my mother and her friends talk about Mrs. Whittemore. She was elderly and diminutive and blind. She taught the Bible in homes—in hers and several others. I cannot imagine what might have possessed my mother to invite me along, a restless 14-year-old in a room full of older women studying the Bible. What’s more, I have no idea what possessed me to go. But go I did, and in that bungalow-style house in Hillsboro Village, sitting on the floor in a room filled with housewives, listening to a four-and-a-half-foot-tall woman, the Bible first trembled in my hands.
They were studying John’s Gospel, though they spent little time there. In the course of one verse, Ms. Whittemore would canvas the whole Bible: “This phrase comes from Exodus,… that word is found in Paul’s writings…this is an image from the Prophets…” She taught from memory and spoke with razor-sharp focus and clarity. I had never heard a woman actually teach the Bible, besides my Sunday school teachers who generally stuck to reading the manual. But Mrs. Whittemore didn’t have a manual. She spoke with quiet confidence and authority. She opened the book, and it would never close again. But she is only half the story.
It has taken years for me to realize that as significant as Mrs. Whittemore was, every bit as important was that room full of faithful women. The Bible trembled for me as I noticed it resonating in their hands. They hung on every word of it, took volumes of notes in the margins, talked together about it endlessly outside of class.
As the Jesus movement was gathering steam among those who were younger, I was witnessing a parallel outpouring of the Spirit with my mother and her friends. They had grown up in a generation that taught them to accept without question what they heard from the pulpit. But now, in Mrs. Whittemore’s pulpit-less living room, they were being taught to engage with Scripture on their own. And I had been invited to be a witness to their transformation. Together our hearts resonated. Together our nameless community studied and prayed for each other. Together we began to ask better questions. And with all this, the Bible began to tremble in my hands.
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Today’s Pastoral Resource...
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