This summer I am teaching a Bible Study on 1st John. We are using the book as a platform to develop better practices of studying the word of God. At our first session I open up with this analogy...
Look at Your Fish
I then read the description of Scudder and his fish. Scudder was a biology student studying under a famous professor. On his first day he was given a fish in a jar of fluid and told two things...take care of your fish and look at your fish. It was after several days he began to understand what it mean to truly examine something and study it (You can read more of Scudder and the fish here). This story has been used for years when teaching folks how to read their Bible. It’s admonition of “Look at your fish” is a reminder that to truly delve into Scripture we must begin the life long practice of reflection and allowing our lives to be changed.
I first encountered this as a college student in a church small group. We were told to read James a few times and then write down 100 things we noticed. I found the first 15 easy. Then the next 20 or 30 came harder. But just like the story, my mind slowly opened up and I began to find so many things of interest or importance in James. When I told my pastor that the next week, he told me to do it again...then I would really begin start reading scripture for purpose.
Eugene Peterson wrote on this type of scripture reading. “Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading” is a reflection on the power of the Bible to change our lives, but only when we have began a way of reading that goes beyond short little bursts. Peterson describes it as..
Understanding Christian reading is participatory reading, receiving the words in such a way that they become interior to our lives, the rhythms and images becoming practices of prayer, acts of obedience, ways of love. (Eat this Book pg.28)
I enjoy using my Saturday often to do this type of reading. To simply ask questions or make observations. I do it without any intent many times. I come back later when I am doing more serious Bible Study. I look at my Fish.
Monday night I will be hearing stories from my class about looking at their fish. This weekend I encourage you to simply sit down with God’s word in front of you, pick a short book or a few chapters in a larger book and read it. Run it through your mind. Read it aloud. Get out the highlighter. Take notes. Look at your fish.