I have to be honest: I started reading Revelation a week ago, and it has just not been able to hold my attention. The stuff at the beginning where John offers advice and encouragement to the various churches in the form of words from Christ are kind of nifty, but from there he gets into all of the apocalyptic stuff, and most of it honestly just feels nonsensical. All the visions and descriptions run together in a mishmash that leaves my head spinning for the most part.
The result of my lack of interest is that my Lent observation has grown relatively slack. I think I’ve missed a couple days of reading, and the fact that I don’t know for sure underlines the problem that I’m having: so much of this millennia-old writing is just too alien to easily grasp as a layperson. The common evangelical assertion that reading the Bible as daily practice is useful because it offers practical applications to our daily lives just rings false at this point. There are some examples of moral behavior that can help inform our decision making, but even those require careful examination and interrogation to try to parse the culturally inflected values that don’t translate to modern society from the universal principles that can serve as a moral foundation. What’s ironic is that even as I type this and recognize the fallacy of insisting on the Bible’s continued practical relevance, I feel a pang of guilt that comes from naysaying it. Evangelicalism is so thoroughly built around the need to integrate the Bible with a believer’s day-to-day life that even as someone who only adopted that framework as a young adult before growing into a more mature form of Christianity I still have difficulty acknowledging the worldview’s limitations. This kind of stuff must be maddening for people who were raised in evangelicalism before getting out, particularly if they retained some form of faith in the process of extricating themselves.
So I’m left with a conundrum of sorts. The purpose of my Lent project was to return to a spiritual practice that I’ve largely abandoned over the past few years, but nearly two thirds of the way through it, I’m finding that the purpose of the practice is largely missing. I’m not sure how to proceed; I expected that there would be periods in my reading where I’d likely have no particularly deep thoughts about anything; to expect some profound revelation every time you crack open a text strikes me as more than a little bit unrealistic, and it makes me wonder if that expectation goes back again to the evangelical veneration of the Bible and the belief that if you don’t get something meaningful from each encounter with Scripture then you’re probably the one doing something wrong. It’s a difficult dissonance to resolve, and in the meantime I’m wondering about the purpose of continuing forward with the project. Do I keep going because I made a commitment and I want to finish, even though I’m growing more and more frustrated with lack of fruitful reflection, or do I acknowledge that the period in my life where I needed to make this sort of effort at performative spirituality is past and let the project go? Neither choice is particularly satisfactory, and they each carry with them some sort of frustration to manage.
I suppose I’ll have a better answer to these questions by the time I check in again next week.