by Laura Springer, M.Div., Th.M.
I hope that by now, you have chewed a passage or two and have tasted the goodness. This is a good start. However, just like eating food, chewing is only step one; if you stop here, the food is not only useless, but also quite harmful.
Like food, Scripture must be ingested to be of any good use; two word pictures—rumination and digestion—will help us understand.
Rumination is what cattle do when they chew their cud. After the first chew, food moves to a holding chamber. Cattle bring the stored food back up for a second chew that extracts more nutrients.
Digestion is next. Food is disassembled and the parts are sent out into the body for integration and reassembly. The body takes grass and makes cow.
Unpacking the Metaphors
These same two steps are crucial for a deep understanding of Scripture. After we have chewed the Word and understand what it meant and means, we must ruminate and digest.
Bible rumination is muttering and pondering the Word as you go through daily life.* This extracts more truth and makes it available for digestion.
Bible digestion is thought; it is discovering how a passage fits into the whole Bible, into what you already know, and into your feelings and behaviors. Digestion disassembles biblical truth, integrates the parts into your heart, and reassembles them into you. God’s truth becomes part of your beliefs, feelings, and behaviors.
If we stop at chewing, we are in the danger Jesus talks about in the parable of the four soils (Matthew 13:3-23). Merely chewing the Word leaves it on or near the surface, where Satan can snatch it, troubles can scorch it, or distractions can choke it. Biblical truth is only fruitful when planted deeply in a well-prepared soul. Rumination and digestion are tools for preparing and planting.
* Rumination can also take place in times of quiet, intentional reflection.