I’m becoming a Bible nerd.
Yesterday, I recorded myself reading some Psalms aloud. I made made MP3s of the files, and added them to a playlist on my iPhone.
Today, I listened to them while I was cleaning the scrambled egg off of a cast-iron pan.
Why? I’m trying to memorize the first twenty Psalms. The recordings are part of my method.
Another method is making up arm movements for each phrase. You know, like that guy who pretended to know ASL while “interpreting” President Obama?
Yeah, it’s bad.
I try not to think about how I look as I gesticulate. I make sure my kids can’t see.
I’m embarrassed to tell you this because I didn’t plan on becoming one of those kind of Christians.
Normal people wash dishes and listen to the Today show or Adele or (actually, I have no idea what normal is. Help!)
Normal people do not listen to scratchy recordings of themselves saying, “Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain?” or “You have filled my heart with greater joy than when grain or new wine abound.”
I prefer this to Justin Timberlake? Really?
I’m as flummoxed as you.
In college, I really wanted to be the kind of Christian that memorized Psalms. I thought I was supposed to be that kind of Christian. But truth was, I had to force myself to read the Word as it was. Memorization was a pipe dream.
After I got more honest with myself, I stopped reading the Bible. I felt a huge relief, and an equally large sense of shame.
It was about that time that I got (really) suspicious of people who talked about the Bible like it was all unicorns and rainbows. I believed enough in God to know that they weren’t completely full of $%*^, but I was wary.
Part of it was shame. If I didn’t see the unicorns and rainbows, how could I be a Christian?
And part of it was realism: If people loved Scripture, they would probably judge me if I didn’t read it like I was supposed to.
This is what “supposed to” looks like:
- Get up before dawn.
- Cue cheerfulness.
- Flip open a Bible, a notebook, various commentaries, an alternate translation or two and some kind of reading plan.
- Read, absorbed, for 15-30 minutes. Heck, make it an hour.
- The children do not wake up.
- Be touched, in some way, by what you read. “Begats” are no excuse. Be convicted, but not alienated. Be uplifted without being comfortable, meditative yet studious, etc.
- No grumbling stomach: you’re happy to put off breakfast.
- At the end, sit still for a moment. Listen to God. Hear him clearly.
- Only then should your feet touch the floor, the children wake, and your stomach remind you of your need for food and caffeine.
THIS NEVER HAPPENS TO ME.
No wonder I felt shame when people talked about loving the Bible. I failed, over and over, to love the Bible appropriately.
But recently, I started paying attention to those brief moments when I didn’t hate the Bible.
And I noticed a very creepy inner dialogue.
I loved listening to Bible memory songs on my iPhone during the day.
(That doesn’t really count as “reading.”)
I loved reading the Psalms.
(You shouldn’t concentrate on just one portion of the Bible.)
I sometimes couldn’t get up early in the morning because of children, or hormones, or sickness.
(You’re so lazy.)
I realized I liked the Bible more if I listened to it throughout the day rather than in one chunk in the morning.
(That doesn’t really count as a quiet time.)
I noticed that I enjoyed writing out Scripture longhand, or as calligraphy.
(But what are you learning, really?)
I wrote about passages or verses that touched me in blog posts.
(That isn’t studying.)
Over and over, I denigrated, discounted and explained away the ways that I did enjoy Scripture. I kept ignoring the approaches I liked in favor of the ones I thought “counted.”
That’s when I realized what my real attitude towards the Bible was:
If I enjoyed it, if it was easy, or fun, or made my heart sing, it didn’t really count.
And its corollary:
I believed God wanted the Bible to be unpleasant.
That stopped me. Did I really believe that? Also, who was that talking back to me so hatefully?
I’m trying to give myself permission to approach Bible in a quirky, fun, just-for-me way. I’m letting go of what I was taught to do. I’m trying to not feel ashamed that my way is awkward and dorky.
It’s tremendously empowering.
Over and over, I commission myself to read Scripture in a way that makes my heart sing. To interpret it in ways that free me. To regard it with joy instead of obligation. To read it, or not read it, and know that Jesus loves me anyway.
Lean in real close. Can I channel Sarah Bessey for a second?
I commission you to do the same. Go, with God, and frolic in His Word. But not because you’re supposed to.
Go because God has created us for enjoyment and delight. Go in freedom, and with a singing heart. God gives you permission, over and over, to be yourself.
Image credit: Nickolai Kashirin