About two years ago I stopped reading the bible for six months. For those of you who don’t know me, that’s insane. I am from “read your bible pray everyday” children’s church. And prizes for most scripture memorized. My parents bought me my own bible in 4th grade and encouraged me to read a chapter a day. I still remember sitting with my back to my dresser and my feet on the forced hot air vent trying to figure out what a foreskin was. I am from the NIV kids club (no literally, if you get your hands on a videotape, you can find me in the crowd). And mostly I am grateful for how scripture is part of the fabric of my being. I am thankful that portions of verses come out of my mouth naturally and my internal dialogue will speak ancient Mesopotamian poetry to me when I am need of comfort. I love the fact that my knowledge of the breadth of scripture allows me to make connections between thousands of years of writing. But. . .
I began to fall asleep reading at my children’s nap-times and at night. Reading became a chore to be grind-ed out not for a day or a week but for months on end. I heard a million voices and opinions on each verse I read. Voices that used to be enrichment and part of my growing catalog of spiritual midwives became harping shrews piling on guilt ad opinions to words that had lost all meaning. So I stopped. I quit. I didn’t crack my bible. I read for the bible study I attended, halfheartedly. And I read the storybook bible to my kids. But in my own devotions, I was done. I sometimes read christian books or blogs (but not often, I’ll admit).
Mostly during my quiet time I just was. I sang, or recited scripture or slowly learned, for really the first time, how to pray. Pray honestly and faithfully. I wasn’t always sure when “Quiet Time” for me was over. There was no read the bible, apply to life, pray, format to be got through. I had to just be. And I noticed, when I did this my devotions never really ended. I started continuing my prayers as I snuck downstairs to wash the dishes, and I had communion with God interspersed with building block towers for kids to knock down. Without the distraction of reading, more verses than I was even aware of memorizing began to be called up in me. I felt free and at peace.
After about six months, I started to actually miss the bible. I missed the rich, alive quality of words. I missed the thrill of discovery when suddenly a verse that used to plague you becomes crystal clear in a flash of divine light. So, with trepidation I picked it up again. And I tumbled into the words of Revelation. The last time I had read Revelation all through was after a marathon of read the bible in a year, I was burned out and confused and had no time for commentaries or even thinking. I gulped down whole passages and swallowed without chewing. But this time . . . I loved it. I loved Revelation. It was like a Picasso painting- impossible to understand from one viewpoint. You can’t honestly be dispensational, or pre-trib or literalist or anything when reading that crazy, maddening book. John sounds like Don Quixote, old, crazy and laughable but for some reason more true than the sane, modern storytellers of today.
And so I fell back in love but this time I think it’s gonna last. I sometimes, at night, read a whole book, gulping down the refreshing drink of a story well-told. And sometimes I read one verse, coming back to it every morning while washing my dishes. And sometimes I dig in and buy (no, actually, borrow) a commentary and thrash through the parts that I hate and really just want to ignore. And the thing I know now is this is all okay. How I read the bible does not define how I love Jesus. And the act of reading the bible is not the pinnacle of a life well-lived for Christ. I love the bible not for what I want it to be- an easy answer book to turn to when I’m in trouble. But for what it is- a community of voices all telling the story of truth.