The other day, I was listening to a lecture by Andrew Peterson titled “He Gave Us Stories”. The whole thing is worth listening to, but there was one point he made that particularly jumped out at me in light of the things I’ve been reading and thinking about in recent months.
The theme behind the lecture is the way that stories can speak to the inner places in our souls in ways that other things just can’t – all stories, the Bible included. He gives the example of a Sunday School teacher telling a story about crossing the Jordan River and immediately jumping to the idea of what barriers and obstacles in our lives the Lord can help us to cross. These were his comments on that experience:
“Sometimes I think we are guilty of looking at Scripture for meaning and forgetting to first encounter it as a thing of wonder…Can we just stop for a second and think about the fact that this is a true story? That God stopped a river from flowing? Let’s look at that first…We look for meaning and application before we stop and consider the story for the great beauty it is – as a thing that actually happened in history…”
Before we analyze and dissect and dig for meaning, we must first consider the story with wonder and awe. In other words, Peterson is telling us to approach Scripture poetically. When we let the realization of God’s goodness and greatness and awesome power sink in, it will be able to transform our souls more profoundly than when we encounter Scripture as a giant do-and-don’t list. This is not to say that there isn’t a time and a place for analysis and digging for meaning in Scripture; that is certainly important too. But Peterson’s point is to put these things in the correct order – marvel at God’s wonderful works first, then analyze.
We see the same principle at work in the examples that I gave last time…we explore nature so as to develop a living relationship with it first rather than dissecting and analyzing the life out of it. We teach history and other subjects using living books so we encounter those stories in a powerful way that speak to us even today in a way that a list of dates and names can’t. Even math can be taught in such a way that the child can come to see the order and beauty in the natural relationships of numbers rather than reducing it all to a series of formulas and steps to follow. All of these things lay the foundation for later 'analytical' studies.
And that is the one last take-away from Poetic Knowledge that I wanted to share: to teach poetically is to teach in such a way that we preserve wonder. That’s a good question to pose to myself as I consider methods and activities and materials to use in our home and school: is this going to preserve my student’s sense of wonder and awe, or destroy it? Am I presenting this material in such a way that it will help my students see the truth, goodness, and beauty of it and give them a little glimpse of the glory of God?