A number of difficulties face most couples approaching scripture dialogue for the first time…a fear stemming from an unfamiliarity with scripture…a background of regarding scripture as an historical work…for other people and other times, or as something that was mainly the province of others, particularly clergy. Approaching scripture with the aim of dialoguing on it is like a journey into the unknown. We think many couples have had the thought or question, “How can we dialogue on scripture? We’re not biblical experts. We don’t know anything about the Holy Land, or the way people lived then. We’re also afraid we’ll interpret passages wrong.”
We need to accept that the scriptures are love letters…written to us and for us…to reveal God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and ourselves in that relationship. We can respond to love letters, with our feelings being neither right nor wrong. Scripture dialogue is a tool, a means of responding to the love letters in the Bible. It allows us to focus on our relationship with one another and the Lord, by focusing on our feelings in that relationship.
The basics of scripture dialogue are:
- Select a passage from scripture that is meaningful to you as a couple.
- Read enough before and after the passage to be able to “place” your passage in a chronologicalsequence of events and the physical setting.
- With one another, try to set the scene…from the outside in.
- Physical setting, time of day, indoors or outdoors.
- Emotional climate of the passage, the atmosphere.
- Zero in on the characters (Jesus, if he is in the passage) and yourself…what do they look
like, sound like? Where are you in this scene?
- Reread the particular passage.
- Write your love letter immediately after setting the scene. The basic question for scripturedialogue is “What are my feelings hearing God or Jesus say these words to us as a couple?”Focus on your feelings.
- Follow the dialogue technique: write, exchange dialogue, select. In your dialogue, focus onresponding to one another’s love letter.
Select a passage. A good place to start is with one involving Jesus, with him speaking, and in a scene where we can see ourselves. The Last Supper is one possibility. The gospel of John, chapters 13- 16, are a sharing of the Last Supper, a rich treasure house just waiting for us to enter. We recommend any portion of this passage as a place to begin your scripture dialogue adventure.
Next, set the scene. No two people perceive the same event the same way. When we set the scene together we share with one another how we see it. Neither one is right or wrong. There is no one right way! Since we are setting the scene for us as a couple, the way in which we individually see the scene becomes a blend. One difficulty is not spending enough time setting the scene. Setting the scene helps us to come alive, to feel and respond. If we skimp on setting the scene, we’re really cheating ourselves.
We’ve found it beneficial to draw on our own life experiences in setting the scene for scripture dialogue; sharing a meal with close friends, a friend dropping in for coffee and talking intimately with us, walking along a beach or country road with close friends, or sailing in a boat with loved ones. All our experiences can be rich sources to help God’s love letter come alive for us, and
helps us to respond to him. We don’t have to be fishermen, farmers, tax collectors,
Romans or Jews…just ourselves.
Here is a sample of scripture dialogue to give you an idea of how it goes:
Using a selection from John, we start with the physical facts at the Last Supper. The sun has gone down, it’s dusk. Jesus and the apostles are sitting around a table and have finished eating. We call to mind how we are at the close of a dinner with loved friends. We’ve shared a meal together. How are we feeling? Relaxed? At ease? Stuffed? Do we have a lazy feeling? Do we have to strain to see someone across the table because of the dim light and we don’t want to move to light the lamp? Is it an effort to hear Jesus speaking to us? What’s the expression on Jesus’ face? Is he intent? Sad? Angry? Determined? How does his intensity affect us? Are we disturbed? Puzzled? Thrown out of our comfortable, after dinner mood? Where are we in the room? Are we observing from the outside, or do we see ourselves at the table? Does his voice draw us? Is it compelling? What does it sound like? Did our father ever talk to us like this before he went away on a business trip, or before he went into the service, perhaps? How did we react then?
What particular words which Jesus is saying really touch us as a couple? Zero in on those words. He is looking directly at us, saying those words to us as a couple. He is not only revealing something of himself, he’s also revealing something of us to us, how he sees us, how he feels about us. Read that brief passage again and then write the question “How do I feel hearing Jesus say these words to us as a couple?”
We separate and write our love letters immediately. If we wait to write tomorrow, the feelings will recede and we’ll be grasping, trying to recreate them in ourselves. How do I feel? Thinking about the question, I draw on my feelings about my spouse, our relationship, even about Jesus and the feelings he has stirred in me. One difficulty in writing our love letters on scripture is focusing on the meaning of Jesus’ words, rather than on our feeling. We run into trouble when we intellectualize or analyze, rather than respond with our feelings.
When we come together to exchange and dialogue, we pray that we will respond to one another, that we won’t be distracted into a discussion of the scripture, or into analyzing it. We pray that we will respond to Our Lord’s love for us as a couple by focusing on our relationship. We read each other’s love letter twice, then respond and try to focus on one response or feeling. After ten minutes of dialogue, we select our question for the next day. It may be a question prompted by this dialogue.
A good topic for loving discussion after our dialogue is what his words meant to us; how his words affect our lives; how they affect our attitudes with others and with Jesus.
Through scripture dialogue we have gained a greater awareness of the depth of love which Jesus has for us by truly seeing and feeling how precious we are to him, how very much he cares about us. We’ve experienced a greater closeness to him and to our Father, and a greater commitment to our relationship. When we see and experience the love he has for us, how can we turn and walk away from one another, even in those small areas where we would like to be private? We have become aware of his presence with us. His words, his caring and concern for us have become alive in our hearts.
Here are suggestions from the Gospel of John to start your scripture dialogue adventure:
John 13:34-35; 14:1-7; 14:15-17; 14:18-20; 14:21; 14:23-24; 14:27; 15:1-4; 15:5; 15:8; 15:9-10; 15:11; 15:12; 15:13-15; 15:16-17; 17:6-9; 17:20-23.