Emma Tanner

A Work in Progress

It’s Good to Think: being a Godly Geek

on March 15, 2013

I have a confession to make- I’ve always been quite lazy when it comes to using my brain. I’m lucky in that I’ve always found it easy to learn, and when I was at school, if you were good at memorising facts and regurgitating them, you could do pretty well. (When I arrived at Cambridge University and they expected me to actually think for myself I very nearly came unstuck, but that’s a whole different blog post!)

One thing that God has been teaching me lately is that he wants to engage with all of me, brain included. I have always been quite embarrassed about being academically able (or a geek, swot, teacher’s pet, and a whole load of other less polite terms that I could mention but won’t- I’ve heard them all). For some reason intellectual prowess is definitely not as socially acceptable as excelling at sport, or music, or drama, or anything else. Recently, though, it seems as if God is releasing me from that embarrassment, and has been reassuring me that he made me this way. I can (and should) be using the gifts he has given me, unapologetically.

I have been struck by the number of times that this aspect of worship- intellectually engaging with God- is mentioned in the Bible. In the words of Jesus, quoting Moses:

“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.”

Matthew 22:37-38, New Living Translation

The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Colossians writes:

“Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.”

Colossians 4:2, New Living Translation.

That led me to wonder whether I am truly using my mind when worshipping God- be it in prayer, reading the Bible, or day-to-day living- or reverting to old lazy habits. Was I really thinking about the Bible passage I was reading about, for example, or just reading someone else’s interpretation of it and accepting it at face value? Was I praying for people and situations in a superficial, shopping-list type of way, or really empathising with them and interceding on their behalf?

At the same time as I began to ponder these things, I discovered the WordLive website. This has a daily Bible passage, and two different ways to approach it. The first is the ‘classic’ method, one that I have most often used in the past- pray, read the passage, reflect (with the help of a commentary) and respond to a question posed in the study. The second was a traditional method that was less familiar to me: lectio divina, Latin for divine reading. This involves reading the passage through slowly (lectio), focussing on one or more words and letting the Holy Spirit reveal God to you (meditatio),  praying to God, letting the words of the passage lead your response (oratio), focussing on God and resting in his presence (contemplatio) and finally sharing anything you have heard from God and how the Holy Spirit will change you through these words (operatio).

Using this method has reminded me that I can read the Bible for myself, and hear from God. It has made me think about what I’m reading, as there aren’t any ‘answers’ printed below the passage! Writing down what I have learned in a journal has been a good discipline, too. I think that often we expect to be spoon-fed knowledge, and biblical knowledge is no exception, rather than make a concerted effort ourselves to really get to grips with what the Bible is saying (or is this just me?) We absolve ourselves of responsibility for our own spiritual growth.

We still need to test any revelations we may have, however. One aspect of the WordLive site that I love is that the same passage is presented each day using both the ‘classic’ approach and the ‘lectio divina’ approach. I have been trying to listen to God for myself to start with- and then reading the commentary to see what extra insights or different perspectives might be gained (or just to check I haven’t got the wrong end of the stick entirely!) We still need to be taught by others, to listen, to be humble, to respect the God-given authority of Bible teachers and church leaders. But we mustn’t forget that with Jesus’ death for us on the cross, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, allowing us direct access to God. We don’t always need to wait for someone to intercede to God on our behalf, or to explain something to us- we can ask him ourselves!

So I’m embracing my inner geek, and trying to think deeply about what I’m reading, saying, praying and doing. Maybe then every day I can do a slightly better job of loving God with all my heart and soul- and mind.


One response to “It’s Good to Think: being a Godly Geek

  1. Emma Lifford says:

    Dear Emma Tanner,

    My name is Emma Lifford, I am part of the team at Eternal Wall of Answered Prayer in the UK.

    Eternal Wall will be a Christian national landmark in the heart of the UK, built of 1 million bricks, each one representing a real story of Jesus answering someone’s prayer, contributed by individuals from across the world.

    Visible from nearly six miles away, twice the height of the Angel of the North, big enough for Buckingham Palace to fit underneath its arch, Eternal Wall will be seen by over 750,000 people every week from the M42, M6, HS2 and from the flight path into Birmingham International Airport.

    Visitors will access the answered prayer linked to each brick through interactive touchscreens in the Visitors Centre or through a bespoke smartphone app.

    I recently discovered amazing answered prayers on your blog and we would love to feature these in Eternal Wall’s database of 1,000,000 answered prayers.

    Would you consider granting Eternal Wall permission to gather these stories of hope into their database?

    You can find out more at eternalwall.org.uk.

    If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask. Thank you for your time.


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