I don’t like failing. I also don’t like making a goal and not reaching it. I don’t let this happen often. I will go to great lengths to honor my word and do what I say I’m going to do. And then there is reading the Bible. This has been on my bucket list, my New Year’s Resolution list, and just about every other kind of Get It Done list there is. Why do I keep failing at this one? There are millions of books out there and I have read a lot of them. I’m a book person and LOVE books. I read all the time, but I can’t seem to read THE BOOK. Why?
For a class in seminary school I read an article called, “The Bible Then and Now” by Mark Noll. I learned, “48 percent of Americans read the bible at some point in the past year.” Awesome. Now I have some shamed packed on to my failure. Are you kidding me?! How is that everyone else is reading the Bible and I can’t seem to make it through anything? Am I alone?
Since I can’t seem to read the Bible, I’ve been reading books on how to read the Bible, such as How the Bible Actually Works by Peter Enns. This was a book assigned for a course I’m currently taking “How to Read the Bible.” Yes, I am serious about breaking through this barrier. If this course doesn’t do it, I don’t know what will. Enns offers some great insight as to why I may have been struggling– expectation.
Someone once told me, “Molly, the best you can get with expectation is nothing.” So true! If I have an expectation about something and it happens, I certainly don’t feel surprise and delight or even gratitude, because it was supposed to happen. I don’t get giddy every time I take a breath because I expect to be able to do that. Yet, when it doesn’t happen– upset. If I can’t take a breath you better believe there is going to be some upset going on. I’ve had an expectation that the Bible is the direct word of God and will directly inform me on how to live my life. And… upset and disappointment. This is not what the Bible has been in my experience. It has been vague and open ended. Just tell me the answer already! Yet, this isn’t how the Bible works.
Enns offers that the Bible is a book of wisdom and suggests it is more of a conversation than static prose. How is this ancient text still so applicable today? Enns suggests this is possible by having pieces written by different authors with different perspectives (diversity) and by the works covering a large span of time, roughly thirteen hundred years. I heard in a sermon the other day that in the Bible Jesus is asked 183 questions. Guess how many he answers… three. The Bible isn’t going to just tell you the answer, but it will offer enough to help you arrive at the answer on your own and in so doing builds wisdom.
This gives me hope. In spending time in the Bible, I have felt confused, frustrated, unsure, and doubting. I’ve assumed that I’m feeling this way because I’m doing it wrong. I’ve made this means that I’m stupid, I don’t get it, and I’m just not a religious person. Maybe this is exactly what I’m supposed to be feeling. Great mentors and teachers in my life have guided me to explore and discover my own answers. The process has been irritating, frustrating, annoying, and at times gut wrenching (much like how I feel when I read the Bible). But these conversations have led to some of the most profound awarenesses, insights, wisdom, and growth about the truth of myself and the world. It never occurred to me that the Bible could be my greatest teacher. I have new insight and enthusiasm to pick it up again and perhaps soak in the pages with a new perspective and maybe a bit more compassion and patience for the journey I will embark on in doing so.