The danger for me, in spending too much time re-reading passages in the exact same set of words, is growing a comfort level that limits itself to responding to the words as an echo rather than a first hearing, and there's a consequent sense of already knowing what God was going to say before the Holy Spirit can even get a nudge in.
That's why, as a discipline, I often turn to unfamiliar phrasings - and sometimes even paraphrasing - as a way to jump-start my curiosity, prime my spirit, break through patterned rote, and willingly open myself up to learn anew.
That's what happened this morning when I was reading Hebrews, chapter 12. Translator Eugene Peterson (The Message) recasts these familiar words (for example: "Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God" - v 15) - utilizing language that called to the deep and literally burned in my spirit. Read the following aloud, and listen to the voice of faith...
- "Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you'll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure no one gets left out of God's generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time. Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God's lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite. You well know how Esau later regretted that impulsive act and wanted God's blessing—but by then it was too late, tears or no tears."