[I want you to know how dedicated I am to my craft: I’m writing this in my underwear because it’s so fucking humid in my house. That’s how much I love you, people!]
I grew up on a fairly religious household. We were Protestants, and I mostly attended Baptist and Presbyterian churches. I was taught various Bible verses throughout my life (until I left the church), starting with the verse that is considered to be the basis of all Christian faith: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever should believe in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
I will remember that verse until the day I die.
I read much more of the Bible as an uber religious high schooler. (Someday I will tell you about ‘missionary dating’ – it’s not about sex, unfortunately.) And I actually found a lot of direction and guidance in the Bible at that time in my life. There were some very universal + wise stories, passages, and verses. I definitely felt and believed that those words were showing me things about my life and how to live it well.
I believe, to this day, that we can receive direction about our own life from other people’s stories and ideas. This is probably the most important aspect of the Bible.
The other important aspect of the Bible is the general underlying principle- why it was written. The Bible was written to tell the story of Jesus Christ and how his life came to happen. It is the story of a how he came to be, what his mission was, and how his life ended. It is the story of a man full of love, acceptance, and social justice (please, let’s remember who he hung out with: the whores and the thieves- and he turned over the tables of the money men).
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As I matured and met other people, learned from their perspectives, travelled and had a bigger vision of the world, I realized: there are a lot of other books, TV shows, and movies that offer sound advice on how to live and how to be. In some cases, I think they offer advice that is more sound than the Bible.
I’m thinking of things like:
Star Trek and the Prime Directive. Where we explore new worlds, in and outside of ourselves, but we do not impose any of our values or technology on the other worlds we find. Some people find this immoral, but I find it immensely encouraging because it is about tolerance and acceptance.
Star Wars and the Jedi Code (which is parallel to Taoist beliefs, in many ways). This is a ‘Bible’ about good versus evil and might versus rebellion. It is a Code of equanimity- something we are certainly short on in Western society.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Can I tell you how many people base their life on this book? A zillion. That says a lot to me. It must provide insight and guidance that are meaningful and help those people live good lives.
The Harry Potter series. Books full of symbolism and stories and verses, very similar to Bible stories. The best part about these books is their unwavering commitment to the confusion of growth but utter dedication to the process. Not a bad way to find guidance. And also, finding your magic. We are all magic somehow.
I think a good ‘Bible’ needs to be something positive and growth oriented. We are all on the hero’s journey– even Jesus- and so we need stories to help us see our way forward. A good ‘Bible’ also holds a story that is larger than we are. It gives us something to believe in beyond our daily existence which also actually helps us in our daily existence.
[Some people are gonna hate on this and say, “But the Bible was created by God!” To which I would say: One, how do you know for sure? And two, how do you know that these modern works were not from the hand of God? Because I would argue that they did.]
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How do we take guidance from our chosen ‘Bible’ then? There are two practices I think are super useful.
Lectio divina. This means ‘divine reading’ in Latin and it is the practice of opening a book to a random page and reading until we find something meaningful or guidance for a question we might have. (Some people say you should hold the question in your mind as you flip to a random page.)
In all honesty, I think this is similar to a Tarot reading, but people think it’s holier because it involves the Bible. Whatevs.
But it certainly can work. You can flip to any old page in a book, or select an episode of a show you think might have the answer (oh, Netflix!) and see what you get. See if there is some story, bit of wisdom, or surprising sentence that gives you guidance.
What would _____ do? Oh, yeah. It’s that question. Only, you don’t have to put ‘Jesus’ in that missing spot. You can put in any character you admire or one you find particularly aligned with you and see how that works.
Just imagine asking: ‘What would Obi-wan do?’
‘What would Hermione do?’
‘What would Dumbledore do?’
‘What would Spock do?’
Could yield amazing results, yes? I think so.
The thing about these practices is that they help us connect with an inner knowing I believe already exists within us. You can call that ‘connecting with God’ or ‘tapping into the Collective Unconscious’ or whatever floats your boat. But what these divination tools do is reconnect us with our deepest, best, most positive understanding and truth.
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We don’t need the Bible for our guidance, but some of us do appreciate guidance from outside ourselves (knowing how our ego can get in the way or how we can ignore our deepest truths because of how inconvenient they make life sometimes). We can pick our own ‘Bible’ and follow it’s direction and see how it goes. If it works and offers us useful guidance, wonderful. If it doesn’t, we can choose again.
We are, in the end, responsible for our choices and our life, but it doesn’t hurt to have outside resources for support on this journey.
Big love, fellow travelers,
Joanna :: xoxo