By Joe LaGuardia
It is important for Christians — clergy included — to get back to basics sometimes. You go through the journey of faith, learn new things, meet new people, take on new ministries and adventures. Life happens, and it seems that life happens too quickly. You have to slow down. You may need a season to get back to basics.
This happens to me about once a year. I read books, write sermons, have conversations, go on retreats, pray and do Bible studies–personally and in groups–but then I hit a personal spiritual wall, and I long for simpler times. I usually devote a few months to read something that is basic, a beginners-type of book. Sometimes it is on the Bible, other times it is on spiritual formation–usually something tied to fields related to my doctoral work.
A couple years ago, I read Spiritual Theology by Diogenes Allen. I picked it up from a Catholic bookstore in Georgia, and regretted that I did not know the book existed before then. It would have been mighty useful for my dissertation (on spiritual formation and caregivers) back in 2008-2009. It was a great, basic book on spirituality. It brought be back to the basics, a good refresher in more familiar waters.
This past season I’ve been reading An Introduction to the Old Testament by James King West. Published in 1980, some of the scholarship is dated and it is from an ecumenical school of thought, but the writing is good and I am enjoying West’s archeological and anthropological insights.
I am editing and publishing a book of essays on the Old Testament, so I am also reading the introduction to make sure I have all of my facts straight. Thanks to this basic book, which I picked up at my local used-book store for a dollar, I already found one error in my own book– it was Amnon, not Absalom, who raped Tamar. If I remember correctly, I think Absalom might have killed Amnon for it.
Getting back to basics helps us remember information that can get lost in translation over time. It can also correct falsehoods that entangle us or befuddle us–not because we intend to believe things that are false, but because when we juggle too much information, it tends to meld together. It helps us re-align our priorities and put first-things first. For a preacher who has a head full of stuff, I find that getting back to basics helps me de-clutter in my brain.
This is not just for preachers. A seasons-cleaning can help us in our relationship with Jesus too. Sometimes we study about Jesus so much, we forget to spend time with Jesus in a personal way. We talk about God or study God’s Word often, but forget to make time for God in prayer and worship. Getting back to the basics strips us of all the chaff that clogs our spiritual arteries in this information, hyper-technological age.
What do you need to do to get back to basics? What does Jesus want you to jettison in your knowledge about him because it gets in the way of getting closer to him?