I have been reflecting this morning on a dialogue in the post below. I am struggling to put those thoughts into words. Part of the problem is that I don't think in words, I think in images. Unfortunately, those images are not necessarily visual. If they were, I could at least find the words to describe them.
I teach a prayer workshop for parish nursing. The first time I was asked, I was given an outline to follow. Fortunately, for me, I was also told that it was not set in stone. The outline relied very heavily on structured and worded prayer. This is definitely not my forte. I changed the outline to involve a number of forms of embodied prayer. I have found embodied prayer is the style better suited to my way of thinking - it does not require concrete words. I am able to use symbolic actions and images to form prayers that don't necessarily have words.
I was somewhat nervous the first time I presented the workshop. It was very well received. The next time I presented the workshop, there were people there who came partly because they had heard about the first one. One of the things I explain is my difficulty with words - that I think in images - and thus a fair portion of the workshop is centred around styles of prayer that accommodate that. A number of people came up to me and were so thankful because they have the same way of thinking and are so relieved to have things put in a context to which they can relate.
This leads me to the reason for this post. In the comments for the post below, there is a comment about looking at the words and the meanings of the words as written as the defining way to interpret the various scripture passages - especially the ones that are considered to speak to same-sex relationships. I disagree with this method on two grounds.
The first ground is that it sets rigid parameters for interpreting the discussion. To insist on the words only is to limit and box God. I will grant you that language is originally a gift from God. However, it is very human in its make up and thus limited in its scope and understanding. To use words alone is to box God in. To insist on words alone is - to some extent- to insist on being able to control God's revelation. It is - to the same extent - to insist on controlling things so that the outcome is always the same. It does not always allow for the working of the Holy Spirit.
When I read a scripture passage I see images. I don't just see the words in black and white but rather images around those words. I see the culture in which they were written - although I will admit that the image is limited to what I have learned about the culture. I see the possible intent or motivation behind those words. I also see the culture of today and the message the words may have for that culture. For me, this is a much more wholistic approach to reading the scriptures.
I am not being innovative here. I believe the ancient Hebrews better understood the limitations of mere words. Their words did not have single meaning. Rather they were words that promoted thinking in images. Take the word "Shalom" for example. We all know that it means so much more than merely "peace." It brings to mind an image of what that peace is like - wholeness, harmony, justice, righteousness etc.
There is another facet to focusing exclusively on the words. I used to have a real problem with the BCP. A few years ago I would have called it "worm theology" along with some of my contemporaries. The spiritual damage that was done to me was immense and it took years of healing before I was spiritually able to embrace my faith. Actually, the problem with the BCP was not the theology per se but the tendency to think of only the words rather than the images they were meant to convey. When I took my second liturgy class at seminary I was given a real gift. The prof was able to convey the images the words were meant to give and I grew to love most of those images. Where I had problems with the images, I was better able to understand because I was able to see the words in the context and culture in which they were written and thus able to lose a fair amount of my negativity toward them. I now quite enjoy the BCP. The most dramatic of changes came around the Prayer of Humble access which is now fairly central as an expression of my theology where before it was one of the prayers that caused the most harm to my spirituality.
For those who may think that my refusal to engage in dialogue using words alone as terms of reference is a further revelation of my arrogant attitude, my willfulness, my blindness, my being deceived or whatever other term they want to give it, I will only say this in my defense. God gave me the gift of being able to think in images. I realize that any gift as a dual edge, one can use it in service to God or in service against God. One must always be very careful of the way that the gift is being used. Thus, the gift needs to be used surrounded by prayer and meditation. I strive to do that. Now who am I to listen to - human or God? I sincerely pray that it is God to whom I am listening and I tend to believe that because the use of the gift is surrounded by prayer and meditation that it is God to whom I am listening. If that means going against the flow, going against certain cultural expectations, then so be it. I am certainly in good company including that of my Lord and Saviour.
Love and Prayers,