"I believe that many who find that 'nothing happens' when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand." ~ C.S. LewisYeah. This. It's so hard to explain to people sometimes, the richness, and the spirituality, that I find in the intellectual life. I think others think it's strange that reading Athanasius or Lewis or Ratzinger or Luther or Moltmann or Augustine can bring me to tears, and to a greater love of God, than an hour of prayer. Or "official prayer", as I like to call it. Because working my way through a "tough bit of theology" ends up being a form of prayer for me. Is it the same as morning and evening devotions, moments of spontaneous prayer during the day, or corporate prayer during worship? Of course not. Those are all different, and I need all of them.
But for some reason or another, God has wired me up in a way that the way to my heart is through my brain. I've struggled against that for a while, because it's "not supposed to work like that." There seems to have developed in modern Protestantism (and possibly the RCC and EO, although I don't know for sure) this dichotomy between "head knowledge" and "heart knowledge", and the preeminent question well-meaning evangelists want to know is whether you know Jesus in your heart, and not just your head. To a certain extent, this is fair. Doctrine doesn't save us, Jesus does.
But there are a few of us for whom "head knowledge" leads to "heart knowledge". As I've thought about this more in recent months, I've been reflecting on the fact that, although I grew up in the church - there every Sunday unless you're on your deathbed - I never really got to study the faith. I had parents who had me baptized, taught me to pray, memorized Scripture with me, explained atonement theology in language a 4-year-old can understand (when you cut your finger on the side of the can, you have to let it bleed a little so it will wash the germs out, just like Jesus' blood on the Cross washes our sins out), and so on. But when I got to college and had to take actual theology classes and actually read the Bible and other theological works and think about them and talk about them and process them that I somehow actually started believing - like, actually, really believing - all the stuff I was taught as a kid.
It's when I'm reading and pondering and processing and bouncing stuff off others and playing and writing that I can almost literally feel myself growing closer to God. Again, that sounds strange, I know. And I don't always like talking about it, because people tend to look at me like, "Um...yeah..." But such is life. I'm learning from dear friends lately - some who are wired similarly, and some who are wired quite differently - that this is okay. It's God's gift to me that I can grow close to Him in this way, and while I have to be careful that I don't fail to "translate" it for others, it's a good and beautiful thing.
Praise the Lord!