Reading for Meaning

In the upcoming months, my goal is to provide some strategies and techniques for getting deeper into the meaning and message of God’s Word. This idea came about as a result of teaching reading to middle school students. I often notice they end up missing important meaning in the texts we read when they do one or more of the following things:

  • Skim read
  • Speed read
  • Read with no purpose, other than “finishing” the piece
  • Expect the meaning to come instantaneously, with little need to spend time thinking and processing

Many of our class strategies focus on breaking these bad habits. As we do that, we find (or remember) that the meaning and value in a text is inherently tied to what we bring to the process of reading it. Consequently, it is quite possible to read thousands of words and walk away with nothing of value, or to read five words and be moved to your very core.

I find that this truth – that our attitudes and processes while reading impact our understanding of the meaning of the text – holds true when reading scripture as well. When I find myself alternating between skimming and speed reading my devotional passages, reading to say I “finished” a chapter or book, or reading with the expectation I will understand without needing to wrestle with the text, verses like Mark 8:18 sit in the back of my mind, and cause me to question: “Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear?” Am I reading with an expectation that God will reveal His message to my heart as I seek him? Or am I racing to finish the words that comprise chapters and books in order to check another thing off my list?

Does it make a difference? In my opinion, it absolutely does.

I believe the Bible is God’s inherent word – nothing can be added or taken away. I also believe that He works in the hearts of those who read scripture – we do not need to have a "mountain-top" experience every day to know that the seeds of God’s word are being planted in our hearts, and that they will one day bear fruit.

However, I also believe that we are called to be active seekers, and that our faith journey is stronger if we come in fully engaged and tuned into the message God has for us. This means that we should read the Bible with expectation, expecting to learn and experience new and relevant things as we read for meaning.

As various strategies are posted in the upcoming months, I hope you try them out with the scriptures you’re reading and see if they help you reach a new level of depth.

Keep me posted on your journey!

~ Hannah