By Sebenzile Nkambule:
The Bible bores me. Dare I be honest, with very little care for the judgement this proclamation, perhaps confession, may bring. The guilt about this wore off after several painful and emotional self flagellation sessions on how unacceptable it was for me to not feel excitement, and unimaginable joy each time I force myself to open the book, The Book rather, and read a verse. The guilt would hijack many of my prayers because I was feeling horrible about it. 'Meditate on the word' is the prescription for living a good life isn't it, quieting my mind for this exercise was and is near impossible, so how would I lead a 'good' life if I couldn't bring myself to focus long enough on scripture to memorise a few verses well enough to the point where I can 'verse drop' in conversations with other scripture gurus, self proclaimed, might I add.
So I quickly learnt how to nod in such a way that no one would realise that a particular verse didn't mean anything to me and, it could have been from a secular book and I wouldn't have known it. I do however remember Marianne Williamson's quotes and can easily recite them without difficulty. From her poem titled 'Morning Prayer', these lines have become plastered on my memory: 'As I begin this day, I open to receive You. Please enter where you already abide'. Very few verses from the Bible have reminded me of the omnipresence and companionship of God, in me, beside me and as me like these lines do. Or when she asks '…and use me Lord, that I might know the joy of being used by You', I am reminded of the importance of being self less and that mine is to fulfill a greater purpose and not my own. Because God is omniscient, I honestly believe that when She had Marianne write this, God had me in mind and the many others who would struggle to be in God's presence within the confines of religion and 'laws' beyond living and leading in love. I While in the comfort of my mother's womb, God knew that I would be inclined to go against the grain, effortlessly annoy many conservatives, and authority would be the bain of my existence. Why then would She choose to reach me only through a book, The Book, that would naturally bore me because the writing and the stories don't always appeal to the creative in me, the avid reader who easily, without hesitation, immerses self in Khalil Gibran's writing, but not that of Job in the book of Job, or King David in some of the Psalms or apostle John in the book of Revelations.
I love hearing the book read, then preached about aloud and listen to all the affirmations and amens to something that makes sense or sounds like it should. All the while I am entertained at performances we put on just to prove that we get it, it makes sense and I recognize it because I've read it countless times. The word comes to life when events in my world lend themselves to it. When I became more aware of the importance of sisterhoods for example, the story of Ruth and Naomi made sense and came alive to me. Heard a female preacher preach that story once, tears streaming down her cheeks as she spoke to me, among a few hundred others of course, and I have never forgotten it since.
To say this without fear of judgment has been a challenge. An expression of differing views is oft seen as an attempt to tarnish the perspectives of those around you, even when we all have a choice to discard what we've heard, after we've heard it.
Before we could read, we knew how to pray. Before we wore suits and shoes, we believed. Before we were different from one another, we knew we were One. We knew whose we were before we restricted our praise to hymn books and pews and pulpits. We knew this. We knew God before we knew what to call Her, Him, It, the great I am. So when did it all change? When did we compartmentalize our souls to prescribed communion with that which forever abides in us? I consciously seek ways to re-member this Being in ways unrestricted, unlimited, unscripted, unrehearsed and free, and the good Book is not high on list of the chosen ways. Perhaps I am the poorer for it. Perhaps I am all the freer for it. Perhaps it doesn't even matter. For as long as the miracle of breath, sight, love and loving beloveds around me always is and in all ways, I'll know I am ok. No? Perhaps. Either way, God is.
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