I felt restless last year. There was an uneasiness in my faith, a shifting of sands, and something else, too. A sense of distance between myself and my First Love. And, as I’ve experienced many times before, when there is a distance, there is always a beckoning, a sweet, gentle invitation to draw near. Sometimes the call is to prayer, forgiveness, or to community. Often, I need time for quiet, solitary meditation. This time, I was drawn to the life and words of Jesus.
Though I grew up in the church and have heard or studied portions of the bible over and over, there are only one or two books that I have read and meditated upon from beginning to end. The gospel stories, for example, are as familiar as a cozy, well-loved quilt. But, familiarity is not intimacy, and last year, I was aware of a heart-deep desire to look closely at the life of Jesus as captured by his first biographers, and to carefully read and consider the words he spoke.
Suddenly, I was no longer satisfied with segments, or by any number of paraphrases or commentaries. I wanted, quite simply, to read from beginning to end. I wanted to take it all in at my leisure and consider the readings in prayer and meditation. Most of all, I wanted to respond to my Love, who urged, “Let me tell you who I AM.”
So, for the last several months I’ve been doing just that. Matthew seemed like the natural starting point, so I cracked open my study bible, laid out some fresh paper and started reading. Sometimes I scour reference materials when my understanding needs a bit of a boost, but mostly I read, reread, note a lot of questions, scribble some thoughts, meditate, check out cross-references, pray, and read some more. I have no set schedule, only the desire to better know the one I call Lord.
Over the coming weeks I’ll share some of the summary thoughts and observations that I jot down as I make my way through the Gospel of Matthew. For now, I’ll say this about the experience: it is good to be near the One I love.