My students are in for a surprise, and not necessarily one that they will enjoy. I just finished grading their first paper, and oh boy did I have a lot to say. It’s a harsh lesson for them to learn, with that much correction being in one paper, but in the long run, that correction will pay off for them should they decide to heed it. What was most disconcerting was just how many corrections, suggestions, and instructions I had to write on each of those papers, with many of them rooted in two areas: paying attention more closely to what was covered in class and fixing skills that should have been polished years ago. I came to those two conclusions after spending a long time scrutinizing and analyzing their work with a close eye, paying close attention to trends in their work and what was truly at the heart of their mistakes. Now, it would be easy to stop there, however, what I need to take into mind is what their failings says about me as a teacher and my methodology. As I examine their work, I need their work to examine me. Their mistakes speak volumes about what I thought I effectively covered in the first five weeks of class, and how I need to alter my instruction to fit their needs. Also, in reading their papers, their responses acted as a commentary on the clarity (or lack thereof) of my assignment, and how I should alter the wording. Similarly, when we study the Bible, to just get at the heart of what the word is saying and means is one thing, but how often do we let God’s word look at us under the microscope? When we study His word, do we allow His word to study us? Scripture was built that way, as Hebrews 4.12 tells us about the nature of His word and the role it can play: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” For as often as we examine and study God’s word, we need it to study us right back. Yes, we might spend time investigating what a verse or passage means in our lives, and how we can change or be encouraged as a result of reading it, but how often do we really allow the scripture to strip us bare and expose us for our flaws and insecurities? As a living being, God’s word has the ability to take our lives, examine them with a careful eye, rebuke us and tear us apart, only to put us back together again through His watchful instruction and love. Allowing our lives to be examined by truth is vital if we desire a closer walk with Him. So we know how to examine the Bible, but how do we allow ourselves to be examined by His word? Silencing the world around us from distraction begins to create in us a heart willing to listen. Inviting quiet, inner peace and focus when we delve into His word also opens us up to instruction. Finally, humbling ourselves before Him, casting all our desires and trophies at His feet will bring us to a point where anything the word has to say to us will be heard and internalized. With a quiet and prepared heart ready to listen and learn, we then allow God’s word to examine us with a love and care that exceeds any and all personal attempts to interpret scripture through our own efforts. Instead of deciding what the word says to you, quiet yourself and listen. Let it speak to your life. In our own silence, His words will speak volumes. Amen.