by Davin Franklin-Hicks
I’ve known how to read since I was about five. I picked it up quick and loved it. I devoured books faster than Ms. Pac-Man devoured those Dippin’ Dots with a gaggle of ghosts hot on her tail. When I began to follow a Christian path as a teen, I lived out my appetite for written words by reading the Bible. I was pretty intense about it. This rabid intensity in reading and memorizing the Bible lasted into my early 20’s. To this day, I can likely still quote 200 scriptures, chapter and verse. I’m fun at parties.
I don’t know if you have noticed this, but we humans don’t always read things “right”. We stumble over words. We find out the word we had been using had a different meaning than what we originally thought, like the time I used the word “fetish” about ten times during a class presentation in High School. I had meant something far different, like “hobby” or “interest”. Yes, those would have been much better choices. As the human race, most of us know we get things wrong. We know this because we live this. We don’t always read things “right”.
For about eight years I was a supervisor of several treatment programs in Tucson. I was on call a lot and had to answer the phone frequently after I went to sleep to work out whatever crisis was occurring. One such night, the call that woke me was from an overnight staff member who was working at a short-term stabilization house. The nature of the house meant people could arrive at all hours if they needed support. The staff member who called me was a phenomenal helper. She got into this work for all the right reasons. She is consistent and awesome still today.
This night, though, she was concerned. She was worried about someone who had arrived on her shift because in his paperwork it indicated that he was a cannibal and she wasn’t sure what to do with a cannibal. She thought she’d give me a call for my expertise. After I didn’t speak for likely 30 seconds, she repeated it: he’s a cannibal. I was having many thoughts and questions come to me.
-Is he a cannibal in theory or in practice?
-How do we know he is a cannibal? Did he go to prison?
-Do you get to leave prison if you eat people?
-I need to say something because I am likely scaring this staff member massively.
So I said, “Hmmm. Did you ask him if he is hungry?” An assessment seemed important. She said, “Well, he’s in bed now.” I talked with her a bit more and we agreed if she had any concerns, even a small concern, we would talk again and I could even come out and be with her through the night. She said she was okay and would let me know if that changed at all. I drifted back to a fitful sleep, what with the visions of cannibals dancing in my head. Around 6 am I called her to check in. She described a hard night of jumping at every sound and checking on him a whole lot. She said he slept through the night and was still asleep. I promised her I would figure out what is safest for this person who was, apparently, a cannibal. I told her she could rest assured we would have some solid answers later in the day.
An hour later, I received a call from the Team Leader of the house who had arrived and debriefed with the overnight staff. The Team Leader was just as perplexed as I was and decided to review that paperwork once more. After a thorough review she gave me a call. I had a hard time, at first, understanding what she was saying due to her laughter that was bordering on hysterical. Finally she caught her breath and managed to say, “Cannabis Abuse”. Cannibal vs cannabis abuse; well that’s a whole different kind of munchies.
What a tremendous misunderstanding of fantastical proportion. What a helpful demonstration and reminder that as we live and be in this world, we get it wrong. Sometimes, we get it very, very wrong. This extends to all aspects of our living, including our faith development and concept of what is Holy and Sacred, what is Spirit and Life. Our lens changes as we have new experiences. That’s a really wonderful thing if we can acknowledge and allow for that. In my own lived experience, absolute-ism does not allow for flexibility, questions, and the mistakes I make all the time. It is too rigid. Absolutes demand that we say we know what we know loudly, proudly, and often regardless of what lived experience offers. Lived experience often leads me to humbly admitting all the things I do not know, all the things I desperately want and all the things I sure do fear. Holding all of that leads to a very different experience with Holy Scripture.
I still read the Bible today. It is the sacred text of my faith and my spiritual development. I just read the Bible differently now because I realized I wasn’t actually reading the Bible that whole time, after all. I was reading the Bible through my own lens, my own bias, my own culture, my own spiritual principles and values, my own church’s theology, my own hopes, my own wishes, my own fears. I was reading the Bible according to Davin.
The Bible is like poetry to me. The beauty of poetry is that it can mean something completely different to you than what it means to me. Clever poetry lets us hang out in the framework, knock around a bit within the walls, slink down into it as it envelopes us, raise us up, lower us down, and on and on and on. When a poem takes our breath away, it is awe-inspiring. This is also what I can experience when reading the Bible now. There’s just so much more room for wonder and questions than how I encapsulated it all before.
I shy away from individuals who quote scripture at me because it really feels like it is something being hurled to harm versus something being offered to nourish. I don’t get into theological debates all that often because they seem to take me further away from my call: loving God and loving each other. I am not offering my thoughts as the “right” thoughts or the “right” way to read and interpret the Bible.
I am a seeker, a meaning maker, a holder of hope. My faith development in this leg of the journey can best be described as an inclusive Christian. I want to learn how to love better. I want to know how I can hold vulnerability as sacred. I want there to be room enough for your precious self and my precious self as we juggle some love back and forth in a rhythm that is easy and satisfying.
I love to chill inside the Bible with a sense of wonder. I love it when what I read clicks nicely with something I have been contending with or hurting about. I love it when I read something and it makes me more curious and loving about the world around me than I was before I took it in. I am not an authority on the topic of the Bible and theology, I am simply a guy sharing his own lived experience in seeking and finding God. To me, the Bible is a living, life affirming, sacred text that has the power to not only take my breath away, but it also has the divine ability to make me breathe once again in parts I had long thought were dead and gone.
That, my friends, is a pretty awesome thing to receive from reading the Bible. Right?