Through my teenage years I read my Bible with great conviction but even greater guilt. Did I read for long enough? was the constant thought running through my mind as I lay in bed at night, eyes drooping, the light from the clip lamp on my headboard shining on the NLT that lay open on my lap. Verse upon verse highlighted in yellow, marching across the page like obedient soldiers.
I was a rule-follower, an achiever; overly rigid in many areas of my life. Though I loved God, my approach to the Bible was similar to how C.S. Lewis describes his prayer life as a child – it became a “ludicrous burden of false duties”. It didn’t come as a surprise that this strict routine of Bible reading slowly faded away as life became fuller and busier, until I was no longer reading from it at all.
I am 30 years old now, and look back on this teenage girl with kindness. I know my intentions were good; I wanted to know God and I was pursuing this goal with great self-discipline. What I was lacking, however, was a deep understanding of God’s love for me. A love that teaches self-compassion and leaves no room for the needless pressure we so often put on ourselves.
This year has brought with it a desire to return to my faith – even in the face of doubt. I decided to head straight to the Bible as a way of rebuilding my faith from the ground up. What does the Bible say is true about God, anyway? Yet I approach this book differently than I did in my teenage years. I remember that it’s not about how much I read, but how the words connect me to their source – God himself. Pastor and author Bruxy Cavey makes this contrast very clear: “We don’t follow the Bible. We read the Bible so we can follow Jesus. There’s a difference.”
There are many verses in the Bible that point to its’ own significance. I am struck by the idea in Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.”
The word of God is not outdated and dead. It is not irrelevant and dull. It is alive and it has power. Pastor and theologian Timothy Keller expands on this concept when he writes “…as we unfold the meaning of the language of Scripture, God becomes powerfully active in our lives. The Bible is not merely information, not even just completely true information. It is “alive and active” (Hebrews 4:12) – God’s power in verbal form. It is only as we understand the meaning of the words that God names us and shapes us and recreates us” (emphasis mine).
I love books. I’ve adored them since I was a little girl; the stories I read as a kid are some of my strongest childhood memories. Reading a good book as an adult is one of my absolute favourite things to do. I recently read Megyn Kelly’s memoir “Settle for More” and was deeply inspired by her determination and focus. By the end of the book I was captivated – I wanted to know more about her, I wanted to be like her. Stories can do this to us, even when they are just recorded in words.
The Bible is Jesus’s story, and because He is the one I want to be most like I go to the Bible to figure out what that is all about. The spiritual world is an invisible one and, as the saying goes, what is out of sight is out of mind. The Bible is a concrete reminder to shift our focus. To stop worrying about how messy the house is, even for just 5 minutes, and instead meditate on God’s truths.
As I read from the Bible, and seek to understand it’s words, I am making a way for God to work in me. I am giving His perfect love access to my heart. I am allowing God to transform me and change the way I think (Romans 12:2) because His thoughts are not like mine – they are better, they are higher (Isaiah 55:8-9).
There is no other book with that kind of power. So I’m joining my 4 year old and happily singing: The B-I-B-L-E, Yes, that’s the book for me!
“Any man who by repentance and a sincere return to God will break himself out of the mold in which he has been held, and will go to the Bible itself for his spiritual standards, will be delighted with what he finds there.” A.W. Tozer
I hope you find that joy today,