Last week, I wrote about the problem of violence in our sacred texts, in particular the Bible. This week, I want to suggest that there is another sacred text that should be as important to us as the Bible: and that is the sacred text of our life.
As I have pointed out in the past, for Christians, the most significant expression of the Word of God is Christ himself. The Bible is a sacred text written by human beings about God and the human experience of God. But for us, Christ is the sacred text that God personally authored, the One whom God called into being as the most sublime, profound expression of the divine within a human life. For Christians, there is no more personal a word from God to us than Christ.
At the same time we claim that Christ is this personal word from God to us, we also claim that this word, this Christ, lives in each of us. As St. Paul wrote, “it is not longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). We have a sense as Christians that the on-going life of the Risen Christ unfolds within us, in the depths of our being, interacting with us as we live our lives.
And it is this truth that makes each of us a kind of sacred text. In our bodies, hearts, minds, and spirits, God in Christ is “writing” a word within us, a part of the great divine story just as compelling as any story of the Bible. In essence, all contemplative ways of prayer and meditation are techniques for reading the sacred text of ourselves, of discovering the word that God is writing within each one of us. That word interacts with all of our joys and sorrows, with the places of our wholeness and the places of our brokenness, with all that we experience, bestowing on them grace, blessing, forgiveness, and meaning.
Each of us carries within us an awareness of our own story. Truth be told, we are constantly turning that story over and over, editing, amending, and expanding it. And none of our stories is accidental. Each of our stories is a chapter, as it were, in God’s great book of the human story, and each of us has the opportunity to bring God’s story alive in our story.
Of course, while we are always living with our story, we often forget that it is part of God’s great story. We neglect to bring God alive in our own story, and we can therefore miss the grace, blessing, forgiveness, and meaning that is offered to us. We make the mistake of thinking that our story is self-contained, without connection to a greater whole. We often make the assumption that our story is somehow privileged in relation to the stories of others. And when we do, we lose sight of the relationship between our story and God’s story.
Many people spend long hours poring over the Bible, seeking to discover a word from God that seems addressed to them. Perhaps we should give equal attention to poring over our own stories, knowing that within those stories, somewhere, there is a word from God to us that is more personal than any word we might find in the Bible. For while the shared sacred text of our tradition is certainly powerful, the personal sacred text of our lives is where we and God truly live with one another.