It’s funny how some things get seared into your mind, and yet other things are so hard to recall. I remember being at a camp with my youth group one summer. I can’t even recall what we were doing at the time, but I remember watching a boy who had recently begun to follow Jesus reading his Bible. Kids were playing all around him, there was loud conversation happening, and here he was completely immersed in reading his Bible. If I didn’t know what book he was holding in his hands, I would have thought for sure it was some new young adult bestseller by the way he was glued to the pages. I remember NOTHING else about that week of summer camp except thinking, “Man, I want to read my Bible the way Mark is reading his.”
The truth is, I often feel intimidated at the idea of reading my Bible. It feels like a BIG undertaking and one that I need to be on my “A-game” mentally to approach. Over the years, I have tried to analyze why this is, or where this thought came from. I think about my Christian schooling background and wonder if maybe I’ve come to think of the Bible as a textbook that is too difficult for me to decipher outside of a classroom or sermons. I also think about my tendency for all-or-nothing thinking and wonder if maybe I have an unrealistic expectation that reading my Bible should always feel deeply personal and that I should be able to devote 100% of my concentration to it in the moment (In fact, this level of all-or-nothing thinking has led me to create a rule about only reading fiction in bed to fall asleep. I decided this because I told myself it was “wrong” or “irreverent” to be reading my Bible for the purpose of tiring my eyes and not to be fully alert and studying it. I’m actually rolling my eyes thinking about how absurd that logic is as I write it out. I also recognize that it’s a hallmark of my sin nature to not want to dig into the truth of Scripture when other temptations and distractions are available to me. In reality, I know it’s a combination of all of the above.
I was really encouraged this past week when I read a social media post from a Christian author that I enjoy, Rachel Jankovic, and I wanted to pass along her words to you.
“When it comes to the Bible, many Christians have forgotten how to simply read. We read newspapers, online articles, magazines, Instagram posts, blogs, recipes, novels, etc. etc. LIKE NORMAL READERS. And yet we feel that we haven’t “really read” the Bible unless we have journaled, checked commentaries, studied the Greek, listened to a sermon series, etc. That is how we have started to believe that reading the Bible is an undertaking too big to fit into our lives and schedules. We can’t block out several hours. We aren’t feeling smart or focused right now. (We are seldom feeling smart and focused!) We think we aren’t getting any value out of the text if we aren’t bringing ALL of our resources to it. But guess what?! God’s word brings the value to His word, not our brains. We don’t bestow on our reading the importance of it. Simply reading is not the only way to approach Scripture, but it seems to be the most forgotten one, and the most needed one. Nothing shows submission to the word quite like just showing up to let IT work on YOU instead of you coming in full steam to try to work on it…”
She went on to offer a summer Scripture reading challenge, encouraging her readers with the concept of “Just reading. Not going back to try to feel something more. Read it like you read anything. Read it! Read it with the assumption that you will be back later and you will notice more then! Read it like it is just food. Normal food!”
After reading this, I also remembered hearing a reminder in church that many of the books of the Bible were in fact letters written to Christian congregations. They were likely read straight through, and what was gleaned from that first reading was gleaned, and then those letters were read again and again, and new value and wisdom were gained from them. Out of curiosity, for what it would look like or feel like to read straight through one of Paul’s letters, I read through Ephesians (which was the Scripture reading challenge from Rachel Jankovic). It took me about 11 ½ minutes to read through the letter. It’s funny the power of thoughts too, because as I started out reading, I noticed something like the sensation of guilt or anxiety that I was allowing my eyes to glide over sentences without stopping to make sure I REALLY understood every single part of what was being said by Paul. It made me feel like I was cheapening the Scriptures, or not showing the appropriate reverence for God’s Word by not slowing down to do a more in depth study of these words. As I continued reading though, these sensations lessened and I was able to walk away from 11 ½ minutes spent in God’s Word with REAL wisdom and insight. This happened not because my brain processed the information quickly, but because, like Rachel stated in her post, “God’s word brings the value to His word, not our brains.” I know that when I go back and re-read this book, God will impart more wisdom and truth to me, and I will likely hear sermons preached on this book which will continue to open my eyes to the depths of this Scripture...but guess what?! My time wasn’t wasted because I was “just reading” the Scriptures. It is a lie of the enemy to keep me from God’s Word for fear of “not doing it right.” It is the desperate act of one who would love nothing more than to keep me from drawing nearer to my Father’s heart by reading his words as a part of my daily living pattern.
I have heard so many statements about reading the Bible, like “I just can’t understand it on my own, ” “I need to read devotionals/Christian books because they explain it in a way I can understand better,” “I want to study the Bible, but I don’t have time to go to Bible studies,” etc.
I think many of us have bought into this lie. I think many of us can relate to feeling like we’re “not doing it right” when it comes to reading Scripture. What would it look like if we let go of legalistic thinking related to “reading Scripture right” and simply read it? What would it look like if we challenged ourselves to replace that fictional book on our bed stand for our Bible? What could God do if we gave Him access to become a part of our daily living pattern, instead of feeling like we had to press pause on our daily living pattern to have access to Him? My bottom line encouragement to you and to myself is...just read your Bible.