Striving to know God better

It took me a long time to really love the Bible. I respected it, of course, and learned lots of Bible stories, thanks to my parents and all those dear souls who taught my Sunday School classes. I even took some courses on the Bible when I went to college. There were great stories, great healings, great battles, and great aphorisms. I thought, though, that it was too easy to get lost in all the genealogies—not to mention the rules about handling food—that just didn't make much sense to me, growing up in Missouri.

Somewhere along the line, however, I began to see that the Bible wasn't just a book like Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, where you could pick and choose a verse to fit a particular occasion. It began to dawn on me, finally, that this book was the record of a people's striving to see more about God. And that because it began essentially as oral history, it had been refined through telling and retelling until only the really important things were left, especially in the stories of the lives of the prophets, the life of Jesus, and the poetry. And in the case of the narratives of Jesus' life, every detail started to become important to me as a guidepost.

When I finally mastered Amharic, the principal language of Ethiopia, well enough to read the Bible in that language, I found lots of further food for thought—and inspiration. For example, in the King James Version, the 23rd Psalm begins, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." But in Amharic, I read, "The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing that is not given to me." I got a greater sense of God's unlimited giving to His creation, which included me. I wouldn't just be rescued from want; I could live in abundance. I don't read Hebrew, so I don't know how the psalm reads in the original, but Amharic is a Semitic language, and a close cousin both to Hebrew and to the language Jesus spoke, Aramaic. So Amharic enlightened the psalm for me.

Green prayer
June 2, 2003

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