Tuesday, June 11, 2013

I Messed With What Works


Slap me in the forehead. I was a daily reader of the Scriptures, a rabid journaler, but also a big believer in the holy devotional cat nap and wielder of a prayerful bubble wand. You could call me a free-range Bible reader. 
Left to myself, I read the Word like I eat. Sometimes I browse, sometimes I hit it hard– not in the food-as-fuel sense, but with ravenous hunger and obsessive study. I usually let the tastes and sensations wander over my palate and revel in them. That’s how I like to read the Bible. I let the phrases burrow into my brain, I mentally connect them with other passages into a web. I daydream. I read a sentence one day, a whole book the next, until eventually I didn’t. How did the girl I just described turn into the irritable and frustrated woman I have become? 

I have many thoughts on it, but it boils down to this: I fixed something that wasn’t broken! 

Have you heard that if you are serious about the Word -and you know I don’t mean Microsoft- you should change Bibles every once in a while? The reasoning made sense and sounded holy, I heard it several places from trusted sources. It sounded like leveling up. I shelved my slimline NIV for a great big NASB study Bible. I truly love to study, and I like that Bible too, but I have had a hard time with daily Bible reading since then! I realized that was because I like to read lying down in bed. That’s how I prefer to read everything, but I couldn’t read that honking big Bible in bed! 
Over a matter of years devotions became an event, then an event I had to fight to make happen, progressing to an event that wasn’t happening much.

When did duty creep in? I was shooting for discipline! When did spending time with God become a way to accomplish something like having a good attitude, personal enrichment or raising godly children? Phooey on that! Continuing the eating analogy, food is necessary to the body but that does not explain the wild array of delicious cuisines in the world. We eat mostly because it is wonderful, and only occasionally because we have to. My spiritual life has been about as flavorful as dry shredded wheat with only an occasional good meal that was God’s pure dazzling grace breaking through my paste flavored efforts. I want to enjoy spending time with God, but doing it someone else's way was a 6 year flop. The irony is that my dogged attempts to be purposeful in my walk with God, starting with “upgrading” my Bible, robbed my devotions of true purpose. The whole point is relationship, and God is the one who does work in the world, not my good intentions. God’s faithfulness, not my discipline. It comes as no surprise then, that it was God who broke through.

It’s a good thing that God is willing to meet me at the ironing board, because I wasn’t meeting him anywhere else, it seemed. He just asked me a simple question “Why does your ‘time with me’ have to accomplish something?” My breath released softly and I had to admit I didn’t know. You mean I can just spend time with God without trying to figure out how it’s going to change me, without trying to learn something, without deep analysis into the implications for my life, or criticism and worry about whether I was coming into it with the right amount of enthusiasm or commitment? To approach a marriage this way would kill the love. Why would I engage my most important relationship this way? 

So I asked God what changed, and he reminded me of how I used to read the Bible and I realized it was always lying on my bed or grass or a park bench. Apparently my best posture for the spiritual discipline of Bible reading is lazy restful. I dug my old Bible out, and have had the best time with it. It works for me, and wouldn't you know it, I am learning and growing. Huh.  

Discipline is important, but I suspect it looks unique for different people. My husband meets God at a clean desk with his materials all neatly spread before him. That is also how he does everything else by the way! God’s Word jumps out at me in more freeform circumstances. God speaks in so many ways, and I am just guessing here, but it seems as if there are a fairly limited number of ways each person is geared toward listening. 

How do you listen? What works for you? What doesn't? Would changing your routine be a good thing or a bad one? 

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