My life in 10 verses: Found in translation

Number 5 in the ten scripture verses challenge... halfway there!

The Word of God invariably comes to us mediated by a translator's preferences or decisions: to be poetic or simple, use modern or archaic language, entirely faithful to the original or more fluid. Even if we read scripture in its original languages, we are always unconsciously translating into our own, choosing this word over that one, adding or removing significance with one verb. Verses which sing within our souls in one version can appear fairly mundane in another: many years ago I spent ages going through various of Paul's letters in my Jerusalem bible searching for a particular verse, only to discover that I had, unknowingly, read past it more than once, but hadn't recognised it in this translation.

In 1997, the year after making my first vows, I began studying theology and bought the recommended NRSV bible. I can't remember why I took it with me on retreat the following summer - maybe it was simply its smaller, more compact size. What I do remember, though, is turning to 1 John 4: 7 - 16 on the penultimate day; well-known verses, hitherto read as addressed to My dear people.

And this time, in an entirely new translation, the first words of verse 7 leapt out of the page at me: Beloved, let us love one another...

I had been struggling for a long time with prayer which was unremittingly dry, spent in darkness. A way of prayer in which more and more was stripped away, including any sense or feeling that I might be praying, leaving only a groping faith: this might not 'feel like' prayer (whatever I imagined prayer was supposed to 'feel like'!); I might be dry and distracted, but I could - I had to - hold on to the belief that, in some incomprehensible way, this was prayer; that I was indeed spending time with God, open to however God chose to be with me.

And here, in these six words, leaping off the page, God was simply saying this is what prayer is; a call to love, nothing more. Not to lovely thoughts or loving feelings, just to being together in love. Beloved, let us love one another... sit with me in love, spend time with me because of love, let me love you; whether or not you feel 'in love', know that this is in fact love, and this is indeed prayer... and that is all...


  1. I am very much enjoying your blogs life in ten verses. God has been calling me to spend more time in scripture lately as well. As a lay mother and wife I don't always go past the daily readings but yesterday I found Luke to be comforting, Fear not little flock for I have given you the kingdom. Amen Michelle


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