Some people set goals in the New Year, that if I’m honest seems impossible, too ambitious and over the top. I’m not that girl. I am a progress over perfection person. I value relationship over task. conversation over reading. So imagine my surprise when the Lord laid it on my heart at the end of 2017 to read the entire bible in 2018. I would have resisted, but I knew it was from Him. I had total conviction that He wanted me to do it- and frankly, I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but I had never read the entire bible. I’ve read lots of it, but not all of it- and certainly not in a year! It turns out, as many people shared with me last year- I am not alone! Apparently lots of us Christians read the same parts of the bible over and over, and avoid entirely parts that are confusing or seem irrelevant. I’m looking at you Leviticus. As I went through the year long journey from Genesis to Revelation and ended on December 30, I was so encouraged by how the Lord taught me through the process. And I assure you, if somehow you could time lapse the internal part of my spirit that was effected by the process- it would encourage you as well! If on the other hand you had a secret camera watching the external process of daily (mostly!) reading, you would be entirely underwhelmed. It does not make me look impressive in the least- as there were many days I was “not into it” and felt like it was a chore to get through. What the process did inside me was slow- and as most lasting changes are- indiscernable day by day. Yet, as I reflect on my year, it is impossible to deny it- reading the entire bible last year impacted me and changed my perspective permanently. Here is what I now know:
Daily bible reading is generally anti climactic. In a world full of Instagram’d moments, we often believe time spent in God’s word should feel monumental and emotional and inspirational. Do you know what it felt like 75% of the time I read? Nothing. It felt like nothing. It was something I did and moved on with my day. I learned an extremely important lesson though- daily time in God’s word is much more like taking a multi vitamin that eating your favorite meal or taking medicine when you get sick. When you take your mutli vitamin in the morning, you presumably do not expect a tasty or fulfilling experience. You just swallow it, believing it is making you stronger in ways you cannot feel. How often have I gone to God’s word expecting an experience only to be disappointed and less likely to read the following day? It’s not that we don’t have those moments- there were times last year where a passage hit me deeply. It was the exact encouragement or clarity I needed that day. But many days it was simply ingested, believing it was changing me from the inside out. Think of it this way: if you only took vitamins when you were sick, how effective would they be? Sure, take them when you are sick, but mainly take them every day to make you stronger so you don’t get sick as often! I think many times we go to the Bible when we feel we need it based on a sin or a trial in our lives, hoping for something to make us feel better quickly. I no longer think reading the bible will create a specific feeling in that moment- sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t- but I know it is making me stronger by renewing my mind with truth (Romans 12:2) and revealing my heart and confronting sin (Hebrews 4:12) and keeping me from being blown around when trials come but rather being grounded in truth (Psalm 1:1-3). Knowing this keeps me coming back to it over and over.
The Bible is not really about me. After reading the whole bible, I realized it actually is a story. And like all great stories it sucks you into characters and plot lines and literary devices. It rises and falls with victory and defeat, great love and great loss. But one thing is abundantly clear- the whole thing revolves around one character and one theme: A good, faithful God who lovingly, relentlessly and patiently pursues people. Including me. This bible is God’s story. It reveals who He is, what He does and why He does it. And as I read all the stories of what God has been doing in the world he created for millennia before me, it made me feel small- in a good way. I am truly part of a much, much larger and grander story than just my own. Like one little thread in a tapestry of beauty and grace, my life has been woven into this giant narrative of God pursuing relationship with people. My life matters deeply to God yet it is all part of something bigger. Seeing all the people who have lived and died before me helps me keep an eternal perspective. This life, thankfully, is not the end of the story and so i can endure suffering and stress and hardship knowing God will use it- weave it into the big story- and that one day it will all be finished. As Jonathon Edwards said “All the bad things will be undone and all the good things will not be lost and the best things are yet to come.”
Reading the Bible is both task and relationship. I started by saying I value relationship over task. As I read this year, I experienced how learning who God is through His word is a very relational thing. I see God differently now, know Him better. This makes perfect since as all relationships grow through communication and the Bible is God’s main way to communicate with me. Rather than seeing it as a task anymore, I understand it is a time to spend with God. And of course, the natural response is prayer- me sharing myself with Him, as He has shared Himself with me. A truly personal part of the year was the way God and I interacted in the mornings. I knew I needed to make a commitment- the bible wasn’t going to just download into my brain while I was sleeping! So I committed to God He would get the first 15 minutes of my day. I told you, watching me would not have been impressive! I know 15 minutes seems short, but it made the whole daily process feel manageable. But I also made a deal with God (is that theologically sound- I don’t know, God works with me as I’m wired is all I can tell you- take it up with Him!). I told Him, if He knew I needed more time with Him than 15 minutes, He could wake me up and I would spend the extra time with Him. And guess what? He did it. Not every day, but lots of times I would just wake up earlier than my alarm and know, God must have known I needed more of Him. It became a very sweet part of the year, wondering if I would wake up to my alarm and spend 15 minutes in the Word, or if the God of the universe was going to wake me up to spend more time together. Can I prove it was God doing that? Nope. But I don’t have to. I know it was. And it was just part of He and I building that personal relationship.
Many friends asked the resources I used last year- www.readscriptureapp.com and www.thebibleproject.com were my tools. I would love to hear how your bible reading has impacted your life or what great resources you are using to dig deeper. The bottom line is this: plant your heart and mind regularly in God’s Word. He is faithful to use that time to change you and heal you and grow you.