Guest Post: Our Lives as Scripture
(DefyGravity just graduated from BYU in theatre education and history teaching. She’s a theatre addict, avid reader, anglophile and has been a raging feminist since she was in junior high, which fortunately hasn’t scared away her husband of 2 years. She recently started blogging about her experiences as a woman, a Mormon and a feminist at femininewound.blogspot.com.)
“Interpreting our own experiences and hearing the stories of others as if they are [Scripture] opens us to countless creative possibilities. Of these… one of the many ways in which we are in the image of God [is] the act of creation. God created by word alone (And God said…), and we too create by word—specifically by naming our lives and the events they encompass. Calling our daily life [Scripture] creates a life as revolutionary as… the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai. Such an act of creation not only helps us understand why we live, it allows us to recognize how often we stand on holy ground.” –Our Lives as Torah : Finding God in Our Own Stories by Carol Ochs.
In reading the foreword of Our Lives as Torah : Finding God in Our Own Stories (foreword written by Rabbi Lawrence Kushner), I came upon a definition of scripture I’ve never encountered, and that is thrilling to me. He describes Scripture as a record of the everyday lives of the Israelites. It is a record of the good, bad, boring and interesting things that happened to these people, with the sacredness lying not in Scripture as direct communication from God but in the stories of people trying to find God, and failing or succeeding. This makes the Old Testament a bit more palatable to me, since there are many stories that I find appalling, with no evidence of God. For Rabbi Kushner there stories might well be stories of someone failing to find God, or failing to realize they hadn’t found God, rather then suggestions for correct behavior or belief.
But was even more interesting to me was the concept the book itself functions around, described in the quote above. Carol Ochs suggests that not only do the personal stories of the Old Testament make it Scripture, but the sacredness of our own stories qualify them as Scripture. We can name our own lives, our own experiences, Scripture.
This idea sparked an excitement I’ve comes to recognize as a sign of encountering something profound or vital for my life. In naming our lives as Scripture, we call our own relationship with Divinity, our own inspiration, intelligence, experiences the Word of God. Our personal revelation (to use the Mormon term) becomes just as valid as Scripture. In doing so, we can trust ourselves, trust what feels right and good to us, even if it conflicts with other’s idea of right and good. As someone who has spent years not trusting my own understanding of truth and my feelings about what my life should be, the freedom to claim that my inspiration is as valid as anything else is empowering and freeing. I can name my own life in whatever way feels correct to me, something I’ve never felt I had the right to do because what felt right to me was different then what I was taught was right for me.
Ochs goes on to describe how we can use the Scripture of our stories as a starting point to create a relationship with God. If we can find the sacred in the events of our past, we can understand how God works in our lives and begin to recognize God in the ordinary aspects of our lives. There was a recent post on the Exponent by Kmillecam that discussed how to believe we matter simply because we exist, rather then attaching our worth to accoplishment, etc. If we can see our lives as sacred, even the basic things that happen to us, that can be a way to see our worth. If we can trace God in the pattern of our lives, we can see that we matter enough for Divinity to be involved in our lives.
I’ve found the sacredness of my story to my life in the very Mormon practice of keeping a journal. I’ve never been much of a journal writer, but as I’ve been moving through a crisis of faith to a new understand of Divinity and truth, writing my experiences has been vital to my personal process. And looking back on what I’ve written has been enlightening and led to further insight. I’ve found the sacredness of my stories and I choose to call them Scripture.