Thursday, March 20, 2008

Enjoying the Bible Part 2: The Guilt We Feel

Hmmm . . . I was expecting more of response for Part 1 of this series. Why did not more people comment? There are many reasons of course. Some are too shy, some find the post uninteresting, some probably don't like the pressure to comment, and others are just dedicated lurkers. There is at least one other possibility though: some of us have no favorite books of the Bible. Some of us don't like reading the Bible at all but don't want to admit it publicly.

This of course is a terrible thing! What, you don't like reading the Bible??? What is wrong with you? And you call yourself a Christian?!!! These are the responses that many of us imagine in our heads (or worse have actually heard from someone) if we are honest and admit the truth. In the evangelical tradition that I come from, Scripture is king. From a very young age we are taught the importance of the Word of God. Read it! Memorize it! Study it! Know it! Obey it! "Read your Bible, pray every day, and you'll grow, grow, grow" goes an old kids song. Evangelicals continue the tradition of the Protestant reformers; Scripture is our authority and thus you need to embrace and love it.

Here's the thing though; some of us try . . . but can't.

I've been there. And although I'm not there anymore, I was and remember what it was like. And I know lots of people who are in the same boat. Actually, I know lots of Christians who don't like any kind of reading. But they think that since their tradition ties spirituality and growth as a Christian to reading the Bible that something is wrong with them. They feel extremely guilty. They want to spend an hour reading and enjoying the Bible every day . . . and they try . . . but they can't. And so they feel more guilty, more discouraged, and more hopeless about it. They condemn them self, fake it, or both. The idea of reading the Bible becomes a curse to them because they don't enjoy it (or not enough of it anyway) and the mere idea of reading it becomes a chore at best or a painful experience at worst.

It is my opinion (and that of Sacred Pathways author Gary Thomas) that God has actually designed all of us quite differently in how we connect with and experience Him. Every church tradition has its own ideas on how best to do this (prayer, Scripture, worship experience, obedience, etc) but we need to find out what works best for us and spend the lion's share of our "Godtime" doing that. For some, it is reading Scripture and praying. For other's it's helping those in need. For other's it may be listening/singing to worship music, being with God outdoors, living simply, etc. We need to stop feeling guilty about how we are not connecting to God and focus on what is most helpful to us. This is not to say that we should just give up on reading Scripture if we find it very difficult. But maybe we can spend most of our time with God doing things that really help us connect to Him and challenge ourselves to spend a smaller amount of time reading Scripture.

If we don't give ourselves permission not to like reading parts (or all) of Scripture we may be setting ourselves up for a lot of guilt and pain. We may even end up teaching ourselves to not enjoy the Word of God at all. I say enjoy the Scripture that you enjoy, even if that is only a few verses or a book or two. Celebrate that and don't feel guilty that you are not a big fan of the entire canon of Scripture. I'm sure the God who designed you and knows you can accept that. It's possible that by being more real with yourself and others about what you like/find difficult about the Bible will actually help you to grow in appreciating Scripture more. There is a place for discipline in reading the Bible, but I think God is much more interested in us loving Him and connecting with Him honestly and sincerely - whatever that looks like for us.

May Light increase!


Elayne said...


Just yesterday I spent some time with a young Mom who is complaining that she does not have time to read reams of Scripture! I told her how I love to come to your house and see Jobina's 8 X 10 papers with scripture on her kitchen cupboard doors!
All my life I was taught that the best time to read your Bible and have 'devotions' is in the morning. I'm positive they meant that the best, most spiritual Christians were those who did this. I spent so many years beating myself up for not taking time IN THE MORNING! Then God taught me that HE made ME just the way I am. Different from everyone else and I began to experience the freedom that comes from an open honest relationship with the One who designed and created me. I spent hours late in the evening when my mind was sharpest, the kids were sleeping and the house was quiet. WHAT FREEDOM!
All that has changed and now I do my reading in the morning and love it. But my life style is completely different too and now it works for me.
Scripture is God's WORD to us and we need to read it. For some is is one verse per day, for others it may be one verse per week, etc. We just need to find what works best for us like you've explained so well.
I bet you've encouraged a lot of lurkers, er, people out there!!

Michele said...

Loved your post, Mark! I am the kind of person who learns through worship and music. Most of the lessons learned in my life have come from a song I listened to at that particular time. I like to read the Bible, but I'm not a consistent reader. Music I'm consistent with.

I agree that God knows how we work and accepts us for who we are. Look at Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Four books of the bible telling exactly the same story but from four different points of view. He satisfies four different personality types right there. Why did He only did that for those four books? I think it's because they carried the most important part of the bible...the life, death and resurection of Jesus. He wanted to make sure everyone could read it in a way that made it real for them!

Anyway, long comment...sorry Mark...really good post though!

Mark said...

Thanks people! My desire is that we would set ourselves free to really worship God and enjoy Him (and is Word). We must liberate ourselves from our self-imposed bondage of cookie-cutter Christianity. Viva la revolution!