Chew This Word

“Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours”
“Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours”
“Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours”

This one line from the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) reverberated in my head as I walked through the woods near the church on my 18th birthday. Like many who grow up in Christian families, this story had become so familiar to me that my usual response to it was to roll my eyes and promptly tune it out. But on that day, one verse captivated me. As I turned it over and over in my mind, God himself began to speak to me through the text.

Kasey, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.

Kasey, you feel far away from me, but you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.

Kasey, you are afraid that your small faith means you will miss out on a relationship with me like the older brother did with his father. But his mistake was not trusting what his father told him: “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” You are not him. You do not have to make that mistake. Instead of trusting your own resources, trust Jesus: he was full of faith and obedience. He had my love and approval. You already have all that you need because you are attached to him. Everything he has is yours. Do not fear.

Eleven years later, I still treasure the word I heard from God on that day. Now when I hear the Parable of the Prodigal Son, I chuckle self-deprecatingly at my former cynicism and thank God that his voice was able to reach me in spite of it. I heard God’s word for me that day by practicing an ancient Christian form of Scripture reading called Lectio Divina. It has four steps that can be done alone or in a group.

  1. Lectio (reading): read (or listen to the passage be read) slowly two or three times. Be open for whatever word or phrase God draws to your attention.
  2. Meditatio (meditation): turn that word phrase over and over again in your mind. Chew on it. Allow God to identify the importance of this word or phrase for your life.
  3. Oratio (prayer): talk with God about the word he has given to you. Express any fears or hesitations you have about responding to his invitation. Thank him for speaking to you. 
  4. Contemplatio (contemplation): rest quietly in the presence of God, listening for anything else he wishes to say.

    From my experience I suggest an additional step:
  5. Recordatio (remembrance): if you’re alone, write down the word or line from the passage and what God spoke to you. If you’re in a group, share with each other; it’s amazing how God uses the same text to reach different people in their unique situations.

Let me be clear: Lectio Divina isn’t magic. It’s not a way for us to manipulate God into giving us a word or force the Bible to say whatever we want it to. It’s certainly not a substitute for other kinds of Biblical exegesis that take into account the historical, cultural, textual and syntactical context in order to discern the meaning of a given practice. Like all spiritual practices, it’s one that we enter into prayerfully, hopefully, and expectantly, allowing God the freedom to speak (or not speak) by his Spirit whatever it is that he wants to say.

Still, I believe that Lectio Divina is a valuable spiritual practice for us to add to the ones we’re already familiar with. It can be a great gift to us in a time when we’re constantly bombarded with words. News headlines, advertising slogans, cultural maxims, even words spoken over us in our past often have more sticking power than the word of God. As someone living with clinical depression, I am always fighting the words my chemically imbalanced brain offers me: You are alone. No one wants to be friends with a sad person. You have nothing to offer. Lectio Divina is a way to do what Paul instructs in Philippians 4:8: to think about (meditate, chew on) what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy instead of the fearful, hateful, faithless, lies that come from sources other than God.* I pray that God, by his Holy Spirit will speak to us as we seek to hear from him through his word, and that what we hear will help us live by faith rather than fear.

*Of course, you could always have this verse tattooed on your arm for permanence and visibility as Tim suggested in his penultimate sermon.


Kasey Kimball

Kasey was raised in Boston, MA and spent six years on staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in Baltimore, MD before coming to Regent College in the fall of 2014. When she's not studying doctrinal theology, she can be found cooking, working on her latte art, running, biking, reading, following the Red Sox and befriending people with dogs. She hopes to teach theology when she grows up, whenever that is.