How Does It Feel?

How Does It Feel?
My wife’s friend Rebecca is going through a very difficult time. She is in her late 60’s and recently has been showing signs of early dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. She is having problems with her memory and becoming easily agitated. She is worried and so is her husband and three grown children. The last time Susan saw her was Tuesday night and it was heart wrenching. An hour after seeing her Susan was still pining over how quickly Rebecca has deteriorated and how sad it was not only for her but for the whole family. Rebecca realizes that things are changing and she doesn’t know what to do. The last we heard she was planning on seeing a doctor for the first time and we are anxious to hear the outcome.
Rebecca Pearson is the character played by Mandy Moore in the television series This Is Us. The last two episodes have been tear jerkers and Susan has felt the pain of this television family. Susan feels deeply and she feels the pain of this family as if it was one of her personal friends. Not only is this sign of a caring person (which she is) it is also the sign of good writing: When a fictional character in a television show or movie can illicit that kind of response you know they are doing something right. To have you engaged and actually moved to emotion because you care what happens to the characters and feel invested in how the story develops is a great skill. The characters come to life and somehow they take a hold of your heart.
I can easily read the Bible and not feel connected to the characters. I just read and try to learn as much as I can and see if there are any lessons for me to apply to my personal life. But I don’t believe that was the intention of the writers of Scripture, to engage people in an exercise of cognitive information gathering. I believe reading Scripture can certainly be that, but I think the purpose of Scripture is even much greater. Scripture actually comes to life when we take it out of the brain and put it into the heart. In the next several weeks we will be hearing about many different Bible characters including Mary, Joseph, Gabriel, Herod, Elizabeth, Simeon, Anna, Shepherds, Inn Keepers, Wise Men and more. These are not fictional characters but real people (and angels) who lived real lives, had real emotions, real fears, real hopes and dreams, real challenges and heartache. Enter the story not on an intellectual level but with your heart and soul. Use your imagination to fathom what they may have felt, what they may have thought as they played a part in the unfolding drama of redemption. Read the Bible slowly, with imagination and emotion. For example, when you read “The Massacre Of The Infants” in Matthew 2 you will read: When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. You can easily go on to the next verse or you can stop there and imagine the scene: Hear the screams of the children, the wailing of the parents, the sound of swords amidst crying and chaos. You can picture the blood flowing and feel the pain of a community terrorized. Or when you read in Luke’s Gospel  But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart , can you picture yourself as this young, new mother who has just had this miraculous pregnancy and given birth to the promised Messiah? What could Mary possibly be feeling? What would the future hold? Is she capable of raising a child, never mind the Son of God? What will her neighbors say? Will Jesus be like the other kids? Will Joseph be by her side for the rest of the journey?
Let the story of the birth of Christ become real. Don’t read it as a text book or as a lifeless description of an historical event. Read it as if you were there…as if you were one of the characters…as if you could actually experience it with the the emotions of the moment.
Who knows, you may even feel like you have become friends with the Holy Family.
What do you think?
How does it make you feel?