Bible reading is one of those little habits that seems so easy in theory, but so incredibly challenging in practice. I guess not the practice of reading specifically (thank you public school system), but for me, it is more the practice of finding time to read it.
This year the leadership at our church laid down a simple to follow reading plan that allows us, as a community, to be reading through the entire arc of scripture in exactly one calendar year. Presented with such great encouragement, I mentally signed on. “This will be great! Everyone at church will be on the same page, literally!” As happens with many resolutions, I joyfully got swept up into the possibilities of this new practice.
At least at first.
Then daily life happened. And for me that is daily life with a toddler, a business, a home, people, and stuff (oh and pregnancy, which just makes me tired). I really do not know how such a small creature with mostly simple needs can become such a hindrance to reading, but she is my excuse. And I am hearing from friends that I am not alone in this challenge. Whether it is a crazy work schedule, treasuring the precious few hours of sleep we get, general stress and over-commitment, or simply a need to be outside at all hours of daylight while summer is here, I am not alone in having a valid excuse.
I hope you hear that, a valid excuse.
I had to look up “excuse” to make sure I was not totally off base here. But we have things or people or events or realities that excuse us from the duty or responsibility of daily Bible reading. As in “you are excused from jury duty due to the fact that you have the stomach flu”. And by valid I mean they are based in fact and logically make sense.
We have valid excuses. It is in fact possible to genuinely have difficulty making room for daily quality time in the word. And so we do not read it. Most Christians do not read their bibles daily. Only 19% in a recent survey were accomplishing this. Also there is this shocking fact: “A majority (57%) of those ages 18-28 read their Bibles less than three times a year, if at all.” For me that relieves some of the guilt and shame about struggling to read my Bible. But it honestly makes me a little sad for the people of our church, our faith, and the collective body of Christ.
What are 80% of us missing? What is going on here?
I am not going to offer a really extensive research paper at this point, although I would love for someone to write one and get to the root of this. But I think we need to be talking about this. Why aren’t we reading our Bibles? Why aren’t we making this a daily priority? What is it about our “valid excuses” that makes them powerful enough to get us out of this responsibility to our faith and our God?
The truth is nothing compares with my moments with the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Nothing compares to speaking completely honestly with him in prayer. Nothing compares with joining others in praise of who we all collectively know him to be.
Let’s keep talking about it. I am trying to do this without shame and guilt. I think the shame and guilt can make us keep this “private” or a “secret” from those around us. So here are some insights from my own life, those places where I hope other Christians can support me, and the Spirit can heal in me.
Perfectionism: This one kills me any time I sign up for a Bible study or Bible reading plan. I miss a day and then it turns into a week or two and I give up since I could not meet the original commitment perfectly. What a loss! I am so thankful for the leadership at our church who keep saying “Just jump in where we are today”. I have missed entire books but I want to jump in again instead of worrying about reading every word.
“All or nothing” thinking: This is that little voice who says, “Well you don’t have an hour to really dive in, so why even open the book?” Gets me almost every time! The challenge is to open it even if I only have 2 minutes. Just do it. Reading Bible apps on the bus, thank you very much.
“I don’t want to sit still”: If I am going to sit still it is for napping and sleeping in general. I am not really sure how to get past this, but I have started to listen to the Bible when I can. Whether it is while folding laundry or playing with Ansley it helps to even get one chapter in here or there without forcing myself to be still. (There is a really good one for free on the ESV bible site).
“I have too much to do”: This one is culturally chronic. There is always more to be doing. Busy, busy, busy. This one is probably the greatest struggle for me (hello type A personalities). The question that I use is “Do you really need to be doing this NOW?” Usually the answer is no and it creates space to reprioritize.
Prioritizing like an amateur: Prioritizing takes a little time and planning. Unfortunately, I can fly through the day by the seat of my pants letting any little thing distract me from what is most important. Everything that beeps and buzzes and cries keeps me busy. I have the habit of responding and doing things with a sense of urgency that is not actually in line with my values. The values should redirect me away from all the beeps and buzzes. The emails can pile up, my Bible time is more important. The spilled milk can stay on the floor, my bible time is more important.
So the last one is really the one that stings: I do not value my time in the Word. It does not make it on my top ten list of most important things in a day. It gets washed over by “life” and to do lists. And by the end of the day, the only thing I want to do is hang out with Alastair or watch TV or go to bed.
I think this is my biggest mistake and where I miss out most. I do not value my time in the Word, especially when another opportunity or need raises its head. Bible time is easy to dismiss. I do not fight for it. I do not prioritize my day around connecting with God and definitely not around reading the word. I want to do it, but my life right now shows that it is not my top desire. I remember having more time before babies, especially in my University days, having hours to fill and it being easier to make that time to read. But not much easier. We have stuff that fills our days no matter what. I believe I have really, really valid and good desires and the things that fill my day are mostly meaningful and productive, but how do they weigh in comparison with reading the written words of God and meeting with him in those gifts?
The truth is nothing compares with my moments with the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Nothing compares to two minutes of reading Psalm 23. Nothing compares to speaking completely honestly with him in prayer. Nothing compares with communing with him alone and feeling him hold me tight. Nothing compares with joining others in praise of who we all collectively know him to be. When I sit down and look at my life, nothing compares to the time we have together, me knowing him and him knowing me
So I pray we can find that in our days. I pray that the Spirit leads us back to him. I pray that 19% becomes 100%, and not out of duty or responsibility, but mostly out of valuing our time with him in the word. I pray that nothing can compete with that time. This is my hope for myself and for any of the other 80% of you who can relate.