I like to read a lot. I know this comes as a shock to those who know me. I can hear the force of their metaphorical jaw dropping. I also like to think a lot. This thinking often takes the shape of imagining. I often think I could be a professional dreamer. From early childhood I developed a vivid imagination that ranged from exotic explorations in other worlds to exaggerated dangerous missions to find the light switch at night. My mind explodes with potential world realities at all times.
Then, college. My imagination remained as vibrant as ever. Yet my imagination which roamed free in regards to all of life suddenly found a straight-jacket that would place it in submission. This anti-imagination brigade was unable to fully extinguish the flame, but try it did. The main culprit? Modern critical Bible study. Hold the phone! (who actually says that anymore? Alas…) I can hear the mental brakes screeching from all of you readers (okay, maybe *you* singular reader – I shouldn’t overestimate my readership). This seems quite out-of-character for the Jordan I know. In fact, it might even seem contrary to the Jordan you talked to 15 minutes ago. Let me explain. Briefly (my famous last words, right?).
I’m still a monstrous pillar in support of theological thought – deep thought. Who wouldn’t want to think long and hard about the greatest of things (cf. Phil. 4:8)? But let me clarify – this modern study of the Bible began to implement in me a purely “scientific” approach to God and his revelation. This scientific approach by itself stirred great pride and security within my evil heart. This scientific approach of understanding the Bible taught me that if I just plugged in the right things in the right place, I could use an unfailing method *cough* grammatical-historical exegesis *cough* and I would receive the 100% unfailing answer. Well. Let’s just say I bought in to the modernistic lie of objectivism. This proven formula began to close in upon my fledging imagination like the dumpster walls upon the Death Star did to Luke Skywalker and his crew. The giant beam that began to break this constrictive (but partially true and helpful!!!) approach began in the form of a book from Jonathan Pennington (Reading the Gospels Wisely). He compellingly and gently brought me from my Platonic cave into the light, where I found that I had potentially narrowed the entrance to truth to an *eye-of-a-needle.*
He has been a major catalyst in the revival of my imagination in all areas of life – including Scripture. This does not mean I now read freely with no bounds as if anything could be true – as if a blue dress could be both white and blue. It is not a free-for-all Black Friday raid of the Bible. *Shiver.* Even the mere thought of that sends chills down my spine. Rather, it means that “the most powerful and effective readers are those who build on a skill set and learn to read creatively and expansively.” This option to read and think with my imagination has taken *root* (pun intended, my friends), especially with Psalm 1 as I have meditated upon it for several weeks now. I have taken the plunge into fruitful theological wondering that is wise and deep with reference to Psalm 1, which by its very nature of Poetry is *ripe* (go ahead, add another pun to the list) for imaginative understanding.
The picture of the flourishing tree. Not unlike many trees you have encountered in your day. But very unlike the young tree in your yard that you can never seem to help grow – whether it be ice, disease, or lack of nutrition that destroys it. This tree. This thriving tree. This tree is the tree that reflects the Christian.
This tree is planted, fruitful, and anti-withering. In short, this tree is prosperous.
This tree is founded in the Scriptures. This tree is fruitful from the Scriptures. This tree is unmovable from the Scriptures.
Boy. I can hear the allusions to Jesus and his Sermon on the Mount flooding my ears. Can’t you?
This tree is supposed to be a picture worth emulating. So. Let’s consider together. What would that look like for you? This Psalm is programmatic for the entire Psalter as it stands at the very head – on purpose! This Psalm should be the grounding for all right reading of the Psalms – really, for all right reading of the Bible!
This tree is utterly dependent upon the nutrients that are constantly provided by the stream. There is a clear link between this dependence on the stream and the flourishing man and his dependence and meditation upon God and his word. A continual contemplation. You know. Daily. Hourly. Marinating for hours-on-end on the only thoughts capable of holding our attention for such incessant meditation. Yet. These are the things that usually escape our thoughts for days and weeks at a time. That makes you go “hmm,” doesn’t it? These are the things we wish would be available at Red Box rather than in some dusty old book. We think such daily dependence should be called legalism. Yet this is the very dependence depicted as that which flourishes with fruit and joy and commendation from the Lord.
This tree is fruitful *in season.*
This tree could be teased out in much further and greater detail… but I think it might be better for you to think for yourself on this one… to dream up some ideas. Within reason, of course.
I *imagine* there are quite a few interesting links that could be found between Jesus and his agricultural teaching (especially Matthew 13 and the sower) that are yet to be explored. What? Were you expecting me to detail this for you? Go, now. Explore. Think. Wonder. Drink deeply of the never-ending well. For yourself. Experience the joyous journey for yourself. There is a great, big world outside the Shire. Don’t remain content living through the story-telling of others. Find some for yourself.
((These were some reflections and thoughts I had from a few months ago now. Thought I’d share. I rarely write in this format anymore. Should I do so more?))
Jonathan T. Pennington, Reading the Gospels Wisely (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2012), 119.