On Monday I wrote about reading the Bible and my plan for this year. I mentioned that I hesitate to write this kind of post because it can sound so legalistic which is not how I feel or what I want to communicate. I have friends reading this who are not yet into the Bible. Just the word can seem threatening, so I feel like my words on this are extra important.
So I tried…But when I read back over the post, it felt…kind of 1, 2, 3-ish. Not the whole story. Like saying Jonah is about a fish. Just a few facts.
My relationship with the Bible has changed over the years, just like my relationship with Jesus has changed.
I have such a deep love for God’s Word in this season that it’s hard to express it.
I am drawn to the Bible. I savor it. I feel tenderhearted like Mary, and awe-struck like the shepherds in the starry night filled with angels. It is intimate and conversational and life-giving.
There is a foreverness about God’s Word that is deeply reassuring. But it hasn’t always been that way.
When I first became a Christian at 14, the Bible was where I got to know Jesus. He was all I cared about – this charismatic, turn-the-world-upside-down-radical who was God and man and actually wanted to forgive me and have a relationship with me. The Bible was all about the Gospels. Our youth group went to see Godspell live downtown in Chicago and it was cool and exciting. Jesus through the Bible made me feel special.
When I went to college the Bible became my answer book. I memorized verses and got all the “right answers” which was Very Important. There were the words to say in order “accept Jesus”, and the mandate to “witness”, and “spiritual laws”. As a person who loves black and white, the Bible answers made me feel very secure (and maybe a little self-righteous). But not so secure that listening to those with another point of view didn’t scare me. What if God couldn’t handle the questions? What if Satan led me astray??? I held out my Bible like a shield.
After college, real life intruded into my neat compartments for God like corn and meatloaf and mashed potatoes getting mixed together. It became a bit of a mess to sort out. Was God REALLY who He said He was? Could I follow Jesus no matter what? Through a break-up and a God I couldn’t predict anymore, I wondered, was the Bible really reliable? The Bible became a book where I tried to make A + B = C, but sometimes A + B seemed to equal a hippopotamus – something outside my equation, outside my compartments.
Later, there came seminary, and although study can squeeze the love of God’s Word out of some, actually it was liberating for me. I came out with more questions about God than I went in with, but also with a greater confidence in His Word and the mystery I could embrace. The Bible, and God, were my rock – maybe not something I’ll ever get my mind around fully – but true beyond what I could understand.
After seminary, circumstances brought dark days of despair as I was wounded and disillusioned by people reading the same Bible I was. I clung to God’s Word, desperately searching for any comfort, any reassurance, any hope. I felt like I lost everything but Jesus, and He met me again in His Word. There were no “answers”, only Jesus. The Psalms often echoed the anguished scribbles in my journal. My Bible is filled with dates written next to verses during that time that either I resonated with or begged for. It was an emotional, fragile lifeline.
Since then, and in all the in-betweens, I have tried to read some each morning. At Starbucks or Minikahda or wherever…With a cup of coffee, I journal about what strikes me, where God speaks to me.
I sometimes date passages. I pray verses for people who come to mind. The other morning this was my view, and this verse part of my reading.
The Bible has been a magnifying glass, a lifeline, a journal, a guidebook, a mystery, a love letter, a safe place…Truth.
So maybe, my experience this year, reading through (most of) the Bible, has been the culmination of these other seasons. Maybe God is constantly weaving together by His Holy Spirit, our understanding of Him through His Word.
Whatever it is, I feel overwhelmed and grateful for the Bible which seems deeper, and richer each day I read it.
I think Sarah Bessey says it beautifully in her new book, Out of Sorts:
There is no end to the ways God will work in and through the Scriptures to reach us. We read the Bible as it reads us; it is the two-edged sword rightly dividing truth, separating and seeing through us. How we read and study Scripture – and then how that reading changes minds and hearts and lives – is a great testimony of the Spirit’s activity in us and through us.
So, if you’re one who is suspicious of the Bible or afraid because maybe it’s been misused in your life, I pray maybe you’ll open it today. If we want to know what God is really like, we look at Jesus, and it’s Scripture that will show us Him and His great love for us. Maybe start with the book of Mark in the New Testament.
And the rest of you…What has your experience been with God’s Word?