on reading the Bible

Posted: January 28, 2016 in Uncategorized

Part of my morning routine these days is listening to the Bible read aloud while I shower and get ready.  This is yet one more attempt to read through the Bible in a year, though I suppose some would argue it’s not really reading, and I wouldn’t bother to put up a defense to that argument.  I’ve tried a lot of times, a lot of ways.  I’ve picked up my bible and tried to just plow through from front to back several times, only to stall out somewhere around Leviticus.  I’ve found and tried out plans online for reading through in a year – most of them involved something from the New Testament, something from the Old Testament, something from Psalms and something from Proverbs.  I’ve tried and reliably failed…well…more than one and fewer than ten times, going that route.  For something like $99 I bought a “GoBible,” which is basically something like an MP3 player, I suppose, which contained among other things a listen-thru-a-year option, with the difficulty being that I had to remember which day I was on (they were marked “Day 1, Day 2,” etc…I listened while working out, and after about day 7 I got pretty foggy on which day I was on, so there was a lot of re-listening and I imagine some skipping too.)  Failure to finish has been the common theme in all instances.

I toyed with the idea of doing it the way my parents did – one year their whole church bought Bibles laid out in a read-in-a-year format (marked off by date), and they all did it together, and I think their Sunday School lessons and sermons followed according to the plan.  I thought that was genius, and I believe they both finished.  While I can’t drag my whole church along with me, I could for sure buy that version of the Bible and work my way through it.  I haven’t given up that notion, but I didn’t go there yet.

Instead I did my default thing and Asked the Google, and found a number of listen-in-a-year sites (free, even!).  I chose one with a Bible version I like; it follows that NT/OT/Psalm/Proverb format.  It’s about 20 minutes a day of listening, which fits tidily into my getting-ready routine.  It is WAY too early here in January to say whether I’ll get through the year – I’ve gotten much further than this on more than one occasion before bombing out – but I’m certainly enjoying it.  I’ve got the page saved on my iPhone, and when I open it, there is always a choice of 3 days – yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  I have had to catch up on yesterday already several times, and I’ve also listened ahead for tomorrow, when I know tomorrow’s not gonna be a good day for getting it done.

With the site I’m using, the guy gives an overview with a bit of teaching in the first few minutes.  I disagree with him almost as often as I agree, but I think it’s important to listen to stuff we don’t agree with.  We either sharpen up what we know, or we get old bad information repaired, in the long run.  So the not agreeing isn’t an impediment at all.

The thing that always amazes me when I venture out to do this is how much stuff I “discover” that seems to have never been there before.  I can’t promise 100% that I’ve already read every single word in the Bible at some point or another, but with a lifetime in Sunday School and church and Bible studies and Christian radio and podcasts and my somewhat relentless pursuit of good Bible teaching, I kind of think I either have, or have come close.  And some of those passages I’ve read hundreds or thousands or more times.  In theory this should be kind of old hat for me.  It should be just review work.  But without fail, I hit moments like I did yesterday, when I’m going, “Wait…what?!”  and thinking to myself that I’ve surely never noticed THAT in there before.

Yesterday was just something like 3 verses in the midst of Exodus 4.  I was in the shower listening, and what I heard caught me so off guard that I literally whipped my head around and spoke my amazement aloud.  I couldn’t finish my shower fast enough – I needed to get out and go look up those verses.  Surely I didn’t just hear what I heard!  But re-reading the verses on my phone screen verified that I had.

Sometimes, some verses just don’t make sense without background, and these were some of those.  I read, reread, pondered, and read again.  They seemed so out of sync that they felt like a mistake to me.  There was so much unexplained that they seemed to go against the nature of the God that I know personally.  I tried to puzzle out their purpose and message, and got nowhere.

Later in the morning, I mentioned it aloud in my prayers with G (asking God to help me understand what just made no sense to me at all), and afterward G (who had not heard of my wrestling with those verses before we prayed) got out some good reference materials and helped me understand what was going on there.

I love all this about the Bible.  I’m a reader, and there are books I read over and over – but the Bible is the only one that catches me so far off-guard so many times.  It never gets rote or ho-hum.  I can read the same line for the ninety-eleventh time and get sudden new revelation of what it means for me in my life – something I never began to notice before.  I guess that’s on the list of things meant by calling it the “living word.”

I see more and more as I get older how much I haven’t seen, reading through across a lifetime.  I see how many presumptions I’ve made, and how often I’ve filtered the reading through modern day north American midwest mostly rural cultural perspective, changing it vastly from the cultureo in which the words were put to page.  I see how often I’ve let the stories in there be cartoons in my head instead of compelling and complicated personal histories.  I see how I’ve lifted little pieces and used them, way out of context, to mean what I wanted them to mean.

Basically, the more I understand myself and my biases, the clearer I become about how little I understand what I read in my Bible.

None of that makes it less fun, less interesting, less life-changing.  It doesn’t make me want to put the thing down or dismiss its power in my life.  Though I’m less clear at this point in my journey on what it “literally” means or even the value of trying to take it as such, I’m more clear then ever that interacting with these words is a tool of freedom and healing in my life.  Basically, the thing gets more mysterious and wonderful, the longer I push into it.

And then there’s the value of working through it with others, which multiplies the experience exponentially, but that’s probably entirely another blog.

So!  We’ll see if I make it through listening in a year.  In the meantime, I’m enjoying the dance.

Have you succeeded in reading through in a year?  If so, what worked?  And what were some of your big takeaways?  I’m dying to hear this.

  1. Cindy Maynard says:

    I was working through the Bible. Not in a year but just to get through it. I have been derailed somewhere in Matthew when I was in an intensive study of Daniel. Eventually I got through the entire OT. I would read a section and then write a synopsis in my own words about what I read. I need to finish that and will hope to this year.

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