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Center for Action and Contemplation

Seeing Scripture as an Art and a Dance

Spiritual Director Valerie Dodge-Reyna reflects on her evolving experience with scripture over the years.
April 19th, 2023
Seeing Scripture as an Art and a Dance

How has your understanding of scripture changed throughout your life? This month, our We Conspire articles explore how scripture written thousands of years ago can inform a loving faith in our modern world. In this reflection, Spiritual Director Valerie Dodge-Reyna considers her winding — and at times traumatizing — life-long journey with the Bible. Valerie writes: 

Growing up Roman Catholic, we did not have a Bible in our home. During Mass we heard short passages of the “the holy scriptures” read by lay people and only the priest read the Gospels. I trusted this to be right because the infallible Pope set it up that way. At a protestant Jesus camp, I was told the Bible was infallible and I couldn’t be a good Christian unless I owned and studied one. So, I changed worship spaces and studied the Bible for the next 25 years, religiously.   

During that time, my spiritual container felt like being in a boat (church). God was in somewhere in the boat, yet the captain (pastor) and his men (elders) were steering the crew. We were instructed to study the Bible, and only the men had authority to let us know if we were within the guidelines of the faith. Any time I would share my own encounter with the scriptures, I was course corrected. Little did I know at the time that Divine Mystery would begin dismantling boat; revealing the God as ocean and cosmos.  

“I started to see major contradictions between the maps I was given and how they failed to accompany the growing complexities of being a wife, mother, and human being.” —Valerie Dodge-Reyna

Illustration of a bridge

Slowly, I started to see major contradictions between the maps I was given and how they failed to accompany the growing complexities of being a wife, mother, and human being. Still, I was able to live fairly happily in this boat until a major health crisis catapulted me away from all my norms. This began a six-year dark-night-of-the-soul where I spent long bouts of time being still and quiet because my body required much rest. This is also when I began to experience my own soul.   

No longer feeling like it was something to be saved from hell, my soul was resurfacing to reveal its true nature as good, beautiful, wild, vast, exhilarating — and this was also terrifying. I was starting to see from a whole different vantage point. I also had a deep sense that maybe the Living Word was already in me. 

Through stillness and solitude, I became voraciously curious, learning from a lineage of wisdom teachers who would have been seen, by my then community, as heretics. Yet, these so-called “heretics” started to help me see God as more loving and inclusive than I had been led to believe. My previous container of church leaders understood the Bible through the white privilege and patriarchal lens they had been conditioned to see through. I began to realize my own conditioning and privilege, which I had been passing on to my four children (and I hated that).  

During this time my own spiritual trauma revealed itself to me at an alarming speed. Most of my wounds came from the ways scripture was used as a weapon to beat out sin, justify punishment, intensify shame, dismiss the value and power of women and people of color, invalidate gender orientation, and justify ego driven men staying in power. 

“I began to learn how to hold the Bible not as an instruction manual, but as a dance — not a destination but a trajectory, not a salvation project but a way to come back home to myself.”
—Valerie Dodge-Reyna

Illustration of a cup

Reflect with Us 

When has your faith been driven by fear? When were you driven by love? How did those experiences impact your spiritual journey? Share your reflection with us. 

We Conspire is a series from the Center for Action and Contemplation featuring wisdom and stories from the growing Christian contemplative movement. Sign up for the monthly email series and receive a free invitation to practice each month. 

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