Brief Moments When I Did Not Hate The Bible

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M_HeatherCan I tell you something that embarrasses me?

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

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Heather Caliri
I'm a writer and mom from San Diego. Two years ago, I started saying little yeses to faith, art, and life. The results shocked me. Get my free e-book, Dancing Back to Jesus: Post-perfectionist faith in five easy verbs, on my blog, A Little Yes.
Heather Caliri
Heather Caliri

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  • Meghan Boggess

    I cannot tell you how much I love this! I wish I could say more, but when I got to the end of the article, I was sort of at a loss for words. Thanks for your honesty and your humor. This was so refreshing to read.

    • Heather Caliri

      Thanks, Meghan!

  • Bev Murrill

    what a great idea to record yourself and learn scripture from that… very cool.

    I think it just takes a while for us to learn that God isn’t waiting with a big stick to catch us out. I used to think that praying in tongues was a cop out because it’s didn’t cost me anything to do it. And that praying in the shower or driving was second rate prayer because i was doing something else as well. Then (finally after a LOT of years) I realised that God was just glad to hear from me at any time, and in any language. He was just glad that I was talking with Him. I bet the God Police don’t realise that.

    so maybe He’s cool when I’m totally focused on Him and nothing else (not even patting the dog on my lap – can you pat the dog while you’re praying and remain devotedly focused?) but He seems cool when I’m focused on a whole lotta stuff and am just getting by by talking to Him about it all…

    Kudos to you, Heather… Emmanuel.

    • Heather Caliri

      “I used to think that praying in tongues was a cop out because it’s didn’t cost me anything to do it.” Exactly. And with new eyes, I see that the things that don’t cost me anything are special gifts, ways where we can be really free and enjoy God and open up new doors that are perhaps more challenging.

  • http://mouseneb.livejournal.com/ wallaby78

    Love this. I wrote the entire Psalms by hand as a wedding gift to my husband, but mostly because I enjoyed writing it and making it look beautiful so much! Recently I’ve been into listening to the Bible audio version as well… in Chinese. It’s fun to combine my Chinese study time with Bible study time. And I completely agree with you that it’s ok, even good, to have fun with it! Thanks for the encouragement.

    Nicki

    • Heather Caliri

      Oh, Nicki–what a lovely gift. I can see you there, anticipating your marriage with the Psalms. I find that the more I can use my body with Scripture (thus the gesticulating) the more it becomes part of me.

  • Monica

    “God gives you permission, over and over, to be yourself.” Yes, He does! (So unlike humans!) I have been learning over the past few months how liberating it is to know that there is nothing wrong with me and the way I love Scripture, Him and how He shows up to and for me in my everyday life. He meets and will always meet us wherever we are because He wants to. What fun in our “meet-ups,” and what fun in the wonder of where will I see Him next.

    Pure and simple joy and freedom in your words. Thanks for sharing!

    • Heather Caliri

      Yes, when I relax and anticipate and enjoy, God seems to show up for me EVERYWHERE. It’s crazy :)

  • http://www.emergingmummy.com/ Sarah Bessey

    This is so good, Heather! I have had this exact conversation with friends as recently as this week. This has been experience with Scripture as well and now, it’s still my lifeline even if I’m doing it all wrong.

    • Heather Caliri

      There is so much joy and freedom in “doing it wrong”. I’m so thankful to know I’m not alone in feeling this way! Thanks, Sarah!

  • Abby Norman

    Beautiful

    • Heather Caliri

      Thanks, Abby!

  • Sherry Naron

    Oh my gosh, I love this so much!

    • Heather Caliri

      Thank you, Sherry!

  • Pingback: RT @sarahbessey: This is so good —> Brief Momen… | The Richard W. Hendricks Experience

  • pastordt

    Love, love LOVE this, Heather. So glad you’re learning this NOW and don’t have to spend another 30 years in that kind of yucky inner dialogue. Love the ways you’re encountering scripture and weaving it into your life – that’s what we’re told to do, right? “You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as as ign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. . .” (Deut 11) Beautifully done – and thank you!

    • Heather Caliri

      I’m thankful, too! And I am glad we’ve got older women to shepherd us less-mature women here on this site–so many times a word from you guys helps me see that experience truly does bring freedom.
      Those verses from Deuteronomy are so freeing to me–and it makes me laugh because I used to feel condemned by them. It’s all depends on where we are inside–how healthy we are.

  • http://www.twitter.com/teenbug Tina Francis/ @teenbug

    Oh Heather!!!! You are singing my song, girl. I RELATE to ALL.OF.THIS!!!

    Thank you breathing permission for those of us who get stuck on the “begats” and can’t “cue cheerfulness” or being “touched” in the early hours.

    I’ve believed every single one of the lies you listed.

    Thank you for singing a song of freedom for me and for many others. This post reads like snail mail from a trusted friend who is nudging me to just BE. Don’t overthink. Just BE. Consume the Bible in the way that nourishes and speaks to me.

    LOVE THIS and YOU.

    *big fat smile on my face*

    xoxo,
    Teen

    • Heather Caliri

      It’s so freeing to just say this kind of thing out loud, no? To join with dear sisters in realizing we don’t have to be afraid and ashamed any more. I’m so thankful to be in conversation with you about this–thanks so much for your comment!

  • Liz

    I appreciate this. I also had a phase in college when I wanted to be the super-christian memorizing type. It quickly unravelled. And now I’m the mom of babies and toddlers who is disillusioned and reading the bible is one of the last things I feel like doing if I actually have a free minute. I feel like I’d probably encounter genocide or patriarchy and I just don’t feel like immersing myself in that. But If I ever start reading again I think I’ll try to keep this type of mindset.

    • Heather Caliri

      Oh, Liz, I’m right here with you: “reading the bible is one of the last things I feel like doing if I actually have a free minute.” Sometimes, that’s me, too, and not just with the Bible. With prayer, with spiritual disciplines–for every time it’s easy and fun there are days where I’m like, “Hell, no!”. Sometimes I just give myself permission to skip it–I ask God to be with me as I skip. sometimes, I find my resistance means it’s what I really need to do.
      But the way of getting to “thirst” is never through shame. I think my freeing is coming through having a conversation with God about the moments where I feel disillusioned. I pray that for you–a freedom to be honest with yourself and God. I pray that for all of us.

      • Taija Young

        Heather, I love the way you put that: “the way of getting to ‘thirst’ is never through shame. I think my freeing is coming through having a conversation with God about the moments where I feel disillusioned.” It’s such a beautiful truth, and yet for so much of my christian life I have allowed shame to dictate guidelines instead of the freedom that comes from those honest conversations with myself and with God.

        • Heather Caliri

          Me too!!! Oh, we cling so desperately to shame, and it’s so backwards!!!

  • http://www.keithferrin.com/ Keith Ferrin

    Heather, Someone forwarded me this post saying it reminded them of me and I’m so glad they did! I remember your honesty in our email and Twitter conversations almost a year ago. Remember that? Thank you for giving voice to what so many feel.

    • Heather Caliri

      Hah! I love the circular logic of the Internet! Yes, Keith, I often think of your book in this journey I’m on–a journey towards undoing some of the lies I’ve believed about scripture :) Thank you so much for shepherding me as I walked.

      • http://www.keithferrin.com/ Keith Ferrin

        My pleasure Heather. Someday I hope our “internet paths” intersect in the real world! :)

  • http://dramaticelegance.blogspot.com/ rachel lee

    this is ridiculously profound. I don’t do early mornings, and I’m not cheerful. my mother gets up at 5am to have her “quiet time,” and my entire life, I always compared myself to her. thank you for this freedom. every single lie, I know them so so SO well.

    • Heather Caliri

      Thank you, Rachel. I’m glad to know I’m not alone in believing these lies.

  • http://www.idelette.com idelette

    I just love being a witness to your journey. Go, Heather! xoxo

    • Heather Caliri

      Thank you, Idelette!

  • Gillian Ward

    So love this! I’m hopeless at conventional devotions, my ‘reading’ is sing ing scriptures I learnt way back from sunday school to hymns, choruses etc from all sorts of places. Hear a word, up comes a loved song. I hum them in my head, sing them in the shower or car, and pray them over and over when I can’t sleep. Now I read my iPad too. Sarah Bessey, Joyce Meyer, Living Truth and Proverbs 31,and all the links I can follow. I have found the archeological Bible I bought fascinating, history, information, photos, really makes it come alive, but I don’t write in a notebook or use lots of tools. The Loving Lord is in it all, and, Joyce Meyer belting put a gutsy talk is a highlight! There, I said it, finally, I don’t do conventional at all well, and I don’t care! God loves me, I’m learning to love Him more, and I love posting on everything! No surprises that English at school, amd talking are my favourite things!

  • Gail

    Thank you for this post! I completely relate. I feel so guilty for not doing the Bible the way that I have always thought I was SUPPOSED to, that I just gave it up altogether. But I’m ashamed of that, and wish I didn’t feel bad for liking it in my own way… I like to hear it, too, rather than reading it. And I like certain parts WAY more than others. I don’t have to be a theologian, right? I am happy to take the pastor’s word for the significance of the minor prophets.. because I am not particularly moved to read them! Thank you for this great post!

    • Heather Caliri

      You’re welcome, Gail! I also think giving ourselves permission to only read the parts we want may also open up doors later on, when we develop more of a sense of trust and joy in the Word itself. I know I am not getting scared off from passages I struggled with as easily; I don’t immediately shame myself for not liking it or panic that I dislike it. Instead, I ask God questions about it.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ the Old Adam

    I hardly read it.

    But I know the gist of it.

    I have a desperate need of a savior…and Jesus is that Savior that I need.

    (…for the Bible tells me so)

  • http://katiemurchisonross.blogspot.com/ Katie

    Lovely. And so helpful for where I am right now.

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  • http://www.inahazelnutshell.blogspot.com/ Laura Werezak

    To also channel Sarah, “You too?! Me too!” For a long time my faith clung to one little verse, Psalm 119:32–”I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” That image always brings me back to what God’s Word *is* in my life, instead of what I feel it *ought* to be.

    Thank you for writing this!

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  • http://artistNancyJones.com Nancy Jones

    I enjoy reading from the Chronological Bible in the mornings. It is refreshing to me to read the Bible in time-order. I take notes as I read. This helps me retain what I am reading. I condense what I just read, writing it in my own words into a spiral notebook, and then commenting with personal notes. I usually don’t read a whole lot, but, I feel like I always get something out of the reading.