I was excited when I received a copy of Revealed: What the Bible Can Teach You About Yourself from the author, Angela D. Schaffner. As someone in the midst of writing her own book relating stories of the Bible to stories from our own lives and families (more about that much later!), I was intrigued to find out what new angles Dr Schaffner might offer from her perspective as a psychologist.
Dr Schaffner’s psychological insights guide her readers through a journey into a Bible which does not lecture, chide, nor always even guide us so much as hold up a mirror to our own lives and relationships. Beginning with a gentle exploration of pain, trauma, and grief, Dr Schaffner encourages her readers to work through daily readings and weekly practices of journaling and reflection to find the mercy and tenderness of God reaching out to them, helping and healing them. After each daily “story,” the reader is asked to find out what it reflects and reveals to them about themselves. After each week of readings, Schaffner leads readers through a practice of inviting God into those reflections, and recognizing where God’s grace is already at work within us.
Generous and vulnerable with her own stories, Schaffner’s touch is light, but authoritative. When she reflects upon the story of Samson and Delilah, I think that I recognize the many stories of difficult and dangerous relationships she has met in her office. In her experience of miscarriage and disordered eating, I recognize a fellow traveler through life’s shoals and swamps, but I never feel overwhelmed nor overshadowed by her own story, at the expense of mine, or of God’s.
The book is designed to be used by individuals and by groups. A facilitator’s guide at the back helps to navigate how one might introduce it to a church small group or other supportive gathering. If you’re planning to use it alone, as a six-week plan, then you might even decide that you just have time to get it for Lent. It might even be transformative.
In her introduction, Dr Schaffner writes,
Approach the Bible as a friend who wants to give you a gift with no strings attached, a gift that shows that your friend really gets you, really knows your pain, and really loves you. Come to the Bible with healthy doses of critical thinking and respect for what its stories can teach you. Come ready to receive self-awareness. (Introduction, p. 13)
I am guessing that this may also have been the mission statement behind writing this book, and I would consider that it accomplishes its mission with beauty and with depth; depth that is stirred by the undercurrent of strong love, for God and for the reader, rippling throughout.
The Rev. Rosalind Hughes is Rector of the Church of the Epiphany in Euclid, OH. She is also a regular contributor to the Episcopal Cafe and shares her own thoughts on her blog, Over the Water.