This time around I have been experiencing the distance between now and then perhaps more than anything else as I read. And for some reason, I have felt some sadness about this, almost like grief. Because it all starts to feel merely foreign and in that way, irrelevant.
And I feel genuine grief at this thought because for some years now the Bible has resonated with me. And I mean that in the same way that a note vibrates to life as the bow moves across a string. Scripture has had resonance in this way. As if my own life would vibrate into being whenever Scripture came into contact with it.
I'm wondering if maybe it is the breakneck pace of reading through so many chapters in such a short amount of time that makes me feel the distance more than the resonance. There is no time to savor, as Lorna warned us would be the case. There isn't time to let the words (the Word) do their work in me. So the surface repels. I read of oxen and blood. And altars. And mountains. And thunder. And pillars of cloud. And 'angels' going on ahead. And legal codes for murder or theft. And I skim off the surface of the page and think: "What does this possibly have to do with us?"
But the question itself, as I ask it, seems to drive me deeper. It has everything to do with us, in a way. I am constantly astounded by God's attention to detail. In Genesis, God opens wombs. In Exodus, God is concerned with fabric, and goats' hair, and sending manna like dew for daily meals. And the intimacy with God when God eats and drinks with the people. With all God's bluster (and there is a lot of bluster), God is still so accessible. Moses meets with God face to face to discuss daily concerns.
When I take the lens of relationship to my reading, then I encounter a God who longs for it. And I see to what extent God goes to experience that relationship with humanity. This does not seem distant to me, though the oxen and the blood remain that way. When I experience it all in terms of relationship, then I feel the resonance again.
Having said this, I know that part of the grief I am experiencing right now has to do with all of the ways Scripture has been misused (ab-used) over the centuries. In Genesis when I read of Noah and his sons, I thought of the ways that text was used to justify slavery. When I read of the grand plan to remove every remnant of the Canaanites, I think of the land struggles in Israel/Palestine going on today. When I read about Sodom and Gomorrah, I grieved for the abuse of this story to oppress GLBT folks.
And for this reason, I feel like I'm also embracing the distance that I experience as I read. When we don't feel that, when we think that it all must apply directly somehow, then horrible, horrible things can (and all too often do) result. There is some gift in acknowledging "that is not me. Then is not now."