When I opened the Bible, I would often struggle with where to start. Reading plans and devotional text would help, but I wasn’t the best at simply reading through an entire book just for the sake of it. The commentary and notes hidden within the text did add an element of surprise to the Word but I still struggled.
It was fun to look up keywords and follow cross-references, but I would lose my place at some point or get distracted by a new train of thought. If you click on a reference, it would open in the same page which made it difficult to compare verses.
What I wanted was something that would allow me to look at both at the same time. After doing a little research, I found that some of the early versions of cross-references where actually printed in multiple columns and made Bibles enormous. There's something about being able to keep things side by side that helps your brain see the context.
I love when you see the red letter text in the Bible. It stands out and everyone knows that those are words that actually Jesus spoke. You pay special attention to them and take you time reading them with a different mental picture. That's powerful.
Imagine if you could use the number of cross-references a verse has to highlight text similar to how it appears in red. What if you thought about cross-references like "likes" or "follows" in a social media platform. Those with the most connections would be featured in your feed and become suggested content providers. You can think of it like a promoter score.
If you combine that with a side-by-side view, then you could read a book as normal while certain verses are highlighted based on connections. You could then select one of the verses are start seeing how other people referenced that text from different points in time. Verses that were highly cross-referenced must mean something.
Exploring the Bible becomes like looking at someone's social media feed and you're reading the comments but on one of the most profound stories every told. You get a chance to see how someone who wrote some words in the Book of Genesis gain more clarity and detail in the Book of Revelation. You start to see how the Holy Spirit is helping make those connections not just in the stories of the authors of those books but in our own lives.
I'm not sure I stumbled upon the concept of network analysis and graph theory. My background is in design, but I have a feeling it comes from my passion for education. I spent several years developing a tool to help map curriculum but found myself discouraged. It's difficult to get teacher to make connections when they already don't have any spare time.
During the COVID-19 pandemic and probably one of the most difficult years in my life, I found myself encouraged by watching how God was moving in members of my Bible study groups. Each person's life was unique and how God loved them was just the same. We started studying the Holy Spirit on Friday morning because someone posted a video in our group text earlier that week. It was spontaneous but an act of faith and obedience. Little did they know that I would need that lesson because shortly after that, my family received some terrible news about a close family member. We needed the Comforter.
I sat in my living room early one morning and listened to the video that was posted in the stream. I couldn't shake the idea that Jesus thought that it would be better for Him to leave so that I could receive the Promise from our Father. Who is this person? I asked Him to teach me about himself. I asked Him to help me understand because it was of the upmost importance to Jesus and I felt like I neglected the very idea of it for years.
I can only describe what happened next as an encounter with the one who loves you with an unmeasurable love. It felt like He was looking at me but with love in His eyes. It was just for a brief moment, like the glance of your partner from across the room. The only way I can describe how it felt is to imagine someone you love giving you a huge. Not a fake hug where there's a quick pat on the back, but a true hug. The kind where you feel that you are loved by them. In that moment, imagine time fades away and you can someone remember and feel every hug that person has ever given you. Then imagine being able to feel every hug that they will ever give you in the future all being combined into one embrace. That's what one glance of felt like to me. All I could do is weep.
From that day, I don't want to ignore Him. I am even more aware that He's an ever-present help. I say a lot more micro-prayer and have mini worship sessions. I want to know Him because it was the very thing that Jesus gave me as a gift. I find my heart being more thankful and easily moved by seeing how one small act of kindness can mean so much to someone.
Now that He's with me, I started letting go of some of those things that I said about myself because I compared what I had to offer to others. I stopped looking at myself as missing something, but more confident that the Holy Spirit can use the little that I have to do whatever He believes is possible.
One day, He gave me the idea to take the network analysis stuff I learned and apply it to His word. What would happen if you used cross-references as edges? Would I be able to see Him at work in His Word? So that's what I did. I used a collection of cross-references that someone curated long ago and applied some graph theory to it and created something that helped me see, explore, and wonder about His goodness.
He's teaching me about who He is, who Jesus is, who the Father is and will be my enteral companion even when I leave this Earth. I have found this to be useful for myself so I just wanted to share it with you. We live in a time where so many people are dying, there's so much hate in the air, we've been stuck in our homes for months, and we're getting closer to Him.