D.L. Mayfield’s words about the Kingdom of God blow the lid off my very careful Christianity over and over. I love that she is trying to figure out how to live out her faith out among the poor, and that she’s not pretending the experience is all unicorns and rainbows. She isn’t selling me something–but she does challenge and invite me let go of more and more of my power and turn blessedly upside down. It does not surprise me at all that she just signed with HarperOne to publish her first book. Congratulations, D.L. I’m so thankful I can share your bracing words about Scripture here today.
A bit about your context–work, family, life:
Married, one toddler. Joined a Christian order among the poor. Teach ESL literacy to women who have been denied access to education their entire lives.
What does your Bible reading look like?
For a specific Bible study, I usually read (and write out!) several chapters. For personal devotions, I read only a few verses at a time.
Do you do anything besides read, like journal, pray or create monumental sculpture?
I am a HUGE advocate for morning pages–stream of conscious journaling that I do right after a read a few verses. I try and journal at least 4 times a week–3 pages a day. Sometimes it is just nonsense, but it really helps my inner thoughts come out. I am careful not to make it a “holy” or “spiritual” kind of journaling. It is alternately very mundane/ridiculous.
How do those practices nurture you?
They are teaching me to be honest and authentic. I am forever trying to save the world, but I still don’t really believe God loves me. In my head I know, but my heart doesn’t. So I keep showing up, and I am slowly seeing how my heart is changing. It is starting to believe that the good news really is good.
Has there ever been a time in your faith where you avoided the Bible? Why?
Yeah, Bible college almost did me in for awhile. Especially after I felt like as a woman I was constantly being told I was a second class citizen. So the OT made me uncomfortable, Paul made me mad as hell, and Jesus seemed very far away and unapproachable.
Do you think everyone should read the Bible every day? Why or why not?
Every day is a bit much, right? I have a theory that only desperate people read the Bible and get something out of it. I wish my life wasn’t so crazy and beautiful and hard. But it is. And that is probably why I cling to the Bible so desperately. I need some answers for all the shit that is going down in my neck of the woods.
Are you content with your interactions with the Bible right now? Why or why not?
I would like to read more. To be fascinated by everything (but I’m not). I wish it had more direct cultural application sometimes. I want to memorize more–the Psalms especially, but they all go together like water in my head.
If you could change one thing about how you approached the Bible, what would it be?
I think I am slowly changing how I approach it for the keys to right living. I always wanted to think I had arrived. Now I show up very sad and anxious most days, and all I ever see is that God loves the lost sheep like myself so very desperately. It is life-changing.
On your blog, you mentioned reading the Bible with people that have never read it before. How has their presence changed how you see the Word? How has the experience of being together been different than an individual reading?
Reading the Bible with people who have never read it before has changed my life. Reading it with people who are poor, or oppressed in many ways, or mentally ill, or suffer from addictions, who come from backgrounds very different from my own. Reading it with people who have not gone to Bible college is the best. They don’t try and figure it out. They tend to apply it in very instantaneous ways. They have a hunger to obey the Bible–which is decidedly out of fashion. But man, the Bible asks for all sorts of crazy obediences. That we would stop choosing fear. That we would allow ourselves to be loved by a Father God.
I am currently obsessed with something called “Disciple Making Movements” which is catching on like wildfire around the globe. The premise is this: you give a Bible to someone who has never read the Bible before. You read it with them. You ask and answer three questions: What does this teach me about God? What does this teach me about man? And what must I do to obey? That’s it. You are not allowed to talk theology. You give people the Bible, ask those three questions, and let the Holy Spirit do it’s thing. It’s pretty much the opposite of what I learned going to school.
Here’s the thing: it totally works. The Bible is alive, living, breathing, powerful. When you approach it wanting to learn and obey, it will smack you upside the head and turn your life upside down.
I now ask those three questions with a neighbor of mine, a woman who comes from a drastically different life than my own. And our lives are changing. We are trying to obey. We are currently reading about the women in the OT, and that is some messed up stuff. And still, we see and read about a God who loves the oppressed, and the God who hears all of our misery. And we see that he is for us. My faith has been strengthened in so many ways.
At this point in my life, I am rather uninterested in hearing what one more educated western white guy has to say about the Bible. I want to hear what my neighbors have to say–and then I want to try and live it out with them.
D. L. Mayfield lives in the exotic Midwest with her husband and daughter. Recently they joined a Christian order amongst the poor, where they are currently seeking life in the upside kingdom. She likes to write about refugees, theology, gentrification, and Oprah. Mayfield has written for McSweeneys, Geez, Curator, and Conspire!among others. She blogs at http://dlmayfield.wordpress.com and you can find her on twitter ashttps://twitter.com/d_l_mayfield.
Trying to approach the Bible without anxiety or shame? Grab a copy my journal, Unquiet Time: A devotional for the rest of us.
Image credit: Bosc d’Anjou, from a drawing by Jason Middlebrow