Jamais Vu

Most of us are familiar with the French term, “déjà vu.” In case you’ve not run into this handy-dandy concept, it’s the feeling that occurs when you’re in a situation that gives you the sense you’ve lived through that before. David Crosby (of CSNY fame) once wrote a song entitled Deja Vu in which the band repeatedly sang, “We have all been here before.” Catchy, huh?

Some of the “experts” think déjà vu occurs when your brain short-circuits and plays what you’re seeing as a memory. Cool. I’ve had this experience many times in the past, but now that I think of it, I haven’t had it recently. Things must change when you get older and begin losing your memory.

Just Guessing…

There’s another French term that I only learned recently. The term is “jamais vu.” I don’t think there are any songs about it, but that only stands to reason. Jamais vu is almost the opposite of déjà vu. Merriam-Webster says jamais vu is“the experience of being unfamiliar with a person or situation that is actually very familiar.” Now, this is something I suspect I will experience more and more as I grow older. Just guessing…

I don’tknow if it applies, but this is something I often experience when I readScripture. Quite frequently I’ll read a passage that appears to be brand new.I’m pretty sure I’ve read the entire Bible over the years, but there are pericopesthat seem to leap off the page and the meanings appear to be brand new.

Some of the liberal politicians like to say that the U.S. Constitution is a “living, breathing document.” By this, I suspect they mean that the text has new connotations as it is applied to different times and situations. While a lot of their more conservative brethren disagree, it’s a fascinating concept—one that loosely fits the Bible.

It Doesn’t Prove Anything

By that I mean, God’s Word is a living, breathing thing. There’s even a paraphrase of Scripture that’s entitled “The Living Bible.” That, by itself, doesn’t prove anything, but experience tends to point me in that direction. It’s not that the Bible changes or means different things than it used to mean. It’s that our experience when reading God’s Word often develops and grows as we mature in the faith.

We can peruse a passage that we’ve read a hundred times, and suddenly, God speaks to usthrough that passage in a way He has never done so before. It’s revelatory,inspirational, and invigorating. I’m pretty sure that’s not what the Frenchmeant by jamais vu, but it’s not exactly rare that I “experience beingunfamiliar with a [verse] that is actually very familiar.”

It’s this sort of jamais vu that makes Biblical studies so enticing. The Lord speaks to us through His Word more than in any other way—at least that’s my experience. I encourage you to go back and read the old familiar passages with fresh eyes. You never know when jamais vu will strike.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

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