07 January 2008


In Abilene, you sometimes find bits of April sprinkled into winter months like January. Today is one of those days, and I took advantage of the welcome sunshine during my lunch break. While walking the track around ACU, my mind wandered the realm of metaphor - that wondrous literary device that bests lengthy expositions with a simple image. I've recently discovered that finding a metaphor to describe my feelings or situation at any given point is extremely satisfying, opening new doors of self-understanding in a way that other descriptions can't. Anyway, here's the metaphor that really stuck with me today.

One thing that I love about reading patristic writers is that they have immersed themselves so deeply in the Scriptures that biblical images and phrases pour freely from their pens and saturate their writing. Some of this is intentional, but some is subconscious. They wield biblical allusions freely, imaginatively, and even playfully - far more creatively than my historical criticism trained mind can begin to fathom. Sometimes the allusions are so subtle that I skim right over them without noticing. Whatever the outcome, for these patristic writers the text has a life that's not quite bound by its original context so that it takes on new meaning and significance in the author's situation. I'm not about to throw cautions about original context to the wind, but I still think there's something beautiful and inspiring about the lively patristic use of the Bible. I'd like for Scripture to capture my imagination that way (instead of quotes from the latest Office episode!).

These patristic writers use Scripture the way a woman quilting by hand works thread in and out of the material. Sometimes the thread is barely visible, even intentionally hidden from sight, but nonetheless it is that which holds the whole tapestry together. However beautiful the material and design may be, the small, careful stitches combine to form the pattern that gives the quilt its appealing texture. In such a way the Scriptures are woven into patristic writings, holding them together, adorning them.

Lord, though life sometimes hands us what seem to be random pieces of material, may your life-giving Word be the thread that binds it all together, bringing order, beauty and texture to our otherwise jumbled existence.

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