Tired of the Bible

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Before cable television and x-box consoles, what was a boy to do? I read. For one thing I discovered Greek mythology and binged on it for a while—the wax wings of Icarus, the golden fleece, the labyrinth, and all kinds of fodder dreamed up by long dead partying Greeks.

The interesting thing about the ancients was the way they were so unconcerned with the believability of their content. They entertained each other (and us) with picturesque narrative and along the way delivered some back door moralizing. Maybe they would have wanted a piece of the action if they’d seen it coming. Their blatant fictions of gods and monsters and foolish men became great business metaphors for sale at Barnes and Noble.

When I finally decided to read the Bible, I immediately got a different impression. The biblical writers intended their content to be eminently believable. The New Testament read like a newsroom report—a good reason for it to be called “the gospel,” which literally means “good news.” I was reading headlines, not tales; sworn depositions, not “cleverly devised myths” (2 Pet 1:16).

For the first few years as a new believer in Christ I devoured both Old and New Testaments, taking them as they were intended—factual testimony. In other words, I kept reading the “newspapers” and it was awesome. This is typically the first level of exposure to the Bible—the wonder of learning particulars about the true God.

It is also about seeing the real people who surround Him—folks who have dilemmas precisely similar to our own. I often read with horrified interest as I saw people making mistakes I could easily have made and in some cases had already made. Of course the negative lessons were counterbalanced with inspiration when these same folks occasionally did the right things.

Best of all I got to repetitively see God being faithful as a rock, and not giving those people up, regardless. I was in the stage of learning, of obtaining glorious facts. That alone brought a certain level of joy and improved my ability to win at Bible trivia.

And one day the fun stopped. I got bored. The Bible suddenly felt like a favorite movie you’ve seen thirty times where you know the lines and can mouth them while the characters are speaking. Looking back on it, I realize this is a crisis point handled differently by believers. Some of us stop reading the Scriptures, reasoning that we know enough—we understand the themes, the topics, and the doctrines. Got it. Good enough.

Others spend just enough time in the Bible to feel the constraints and boundaries of it. The truth becomes a strait jacket they start trying to escape by tweaking doctrines, and playing with key propositions. Still others of us drill down into the intellectual dimension of the Word until their hearts have pocket protectors on them. Primed with so much knowledge, they overly develop a sense of right and wrong that won’t allow them to get along with others, even on obscure points.

I didn’t want to fall into any of those extremes. I knew it was time to do something with the Bible other than collect data, even if it had been glorious and necessary data. I tried a few things:

I deliberately slowed down my reading to a crawl. No more five-chapter-a-day (or twenty-five-chapter-a-day) reading plans. I would spend a morning soaking in one verse or at most a few verses—like putting a water drop under a microscope, and watching the life teem inside of it.

Slowly, word by word, and thought by thought, I prayed and considered what the Holy Spirit had put in the passage. Glory seemed to burn bright again. It was an immersion in the presence of God.

At times I deliberately sped up my pace, like reading twenty-eight chapters in twenty minutes. Going through the book of Acts at that speed—the equivalent of a DVD fast-forward—muted the details and made the broad strategic actions of God in the book stand out more than ever before.

Instead of automatically reading from Genesis through Revelation, I tried jumping from one genre to another—a book of history (like Genesis or Acts), then one of poetry (like Psalms), then one of one wisdom (like Proverbs), one prophecy (like Isaiah or Revelation), one epistle (like Romans). It was an all you can eat buffet, with a different flavor to break up the monotony of my habitual cover to cover approach.

I also explained the Bible to myself out loud, like a crazy man (at least that’s the way it probably looked to people passing me on the freeway). Never dismiss the importance of speaking the word of God to yourself. It brought me crystal clarity and filling with the Holy Spirit. Let me encourage you to do the “crazy” thing, too.

In my life as a disciple, these different exercises introduced me to another phase of Bible reading—something more distinctly relational, felt, and experiential to augment my theology.

I haven’t been tired of the Bible in years.

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