When I am between novels, I am at a bit of a loss. I fish around for the next well-crafted tale that captivates me and is worth sinking into. TV is the same way, even more challenging because I prefer to settle in with Rob. We enjoyed Downton Abbey together and then Stranger Things. From there El GranHotel and Broadchurch. In between most shows that we agree on, we fiddle around. One or the other of us has the wand and we bicker. Yes or no? Too creepy or a chick flick? Can’t we just agree on those nights before we bring our supper plates to our laps in front of the widescreen instead of wasting time searching and arguing?
Imagine my delight when we fell easily into the good old-fashioned phenomenon of reading aloud. We were driving between Aberdeen and Ocean Shores, about 90 minutes give or take. We were engrossed, surprisingly, in the Revelation to John. Yes, bingeing on the Bible. Rob was driving. It was sunny out. I started reading thinking I’d tackle some of my theology homework starting with one or two or maybe five of the last 22 chapters of the Bible.
The significance wasn’t lost on me. I had started this project of reading the entire Bible, cover-to-cover two years ago. I’ve studied with a dozen others in our Episcopal Diocese, meeting once a week for discussion and prayers, snack and camaraderie. The read-aloud seemed a worthy activity while traveling except that, frankly, Revelation has always seemed a little spooky to me and brashly judgmental too with the rapture and stuff – who’s in and who’s out. This is after all decidedly not my understanding of “heaven.” It makes more sense to me that we are all evolving into spirit. I’d rather invite a physicist to my funeral before this John character.
And Rob is basically a scientist first. Somehow over the years, we have found and enjoyed church together – prayers and sacred music and being part of a welcoming, intergenerational community. But Rob’s practical approach to life as well as his loving, open heart, have kept me tethered here on earth amongst the living instead of spinning out periodically on the visions/hallucinations God offers me.
So when I found myself reading one chapter of Revelation after another out loud the other day, I was amazed. We were drawn together into a magnificent story complete with superheroes and special effects. Albeit Rob was driving, thus captured, what could he say? But I did pause occasionally to underline or to ask him, “What in God’s name does that mean?” and then “Should I read a few more pages?” The creatures! The battles! Such imagination! And colors too! Thunder and earthquakes! Multitudes of people and angels! Um, um.
I realized we were bingeing together in the best way. After all, the book of Revelation starts with blessing “the one who reads aloud the words…and those who hear.” (1:3) This was certainly my experience, maybe Rob’s too with his repeated acknowledgements, “Trippy.” “Sure, read on.” “What happens next?” It helps that we have good friends on the island of Patmos where the book was written.
The final chapters sprang from the page and through my own voice into the air surrounding us in Rob’s white MPV van amidst a shower of fire. Talk about a special effect! Could Rob be a superhero too? In reality the sun filtered through the forest alongside the road casting dappled shadows on the pages. Given our movement, the light jumped and danced on the page similar to the effect cast by a giant mirror ball. Along with locusts equipped for battle with human hair, lion’s teeth and tails like scorpions, a pale green horse galloped across the page. Next came a white horse with a rider whose cape dripped with blood. I squinted my eyes at one point, enough to let only the fantastic light of stardust through. This is what we are made of after all.
The words of story are captured briefly but not finally. Instead when, like children, we are spellbound offering up our time and attention to the miracle of great story and ancient wisdom, we find each other whirling through, surrounded by “a river of the water of life, bright as crystal.” (22:1) And “nothing accursed will be found here any more.” (22:3)
As we barreled along at 60 miles per hour, I shivered, reading the last of the Bible’s 1,400 pages aloud to my prince as well as to my King.