My original thought had been to go into the Christian bookstore to pick up a couple of the books on my list of things to read this year. But of course I can’t just pick up those books and leave. I have to roam. Literally every aisle of books. Some of them more than once.
But I wasn’t roaming just to waste time. I was looking for something–words and pages and titles to leap out at me; for that still small voice to say that that’s the book with the answers I’m looking for.
As I perused through the few books I had come for, they suddenly weren’t as interesting as I thought. Instead, a book called 66 Love Letters grabbed my attention and actually brought me to tears.
As I flipped through the pages I discovered that the author had published a lengthy conversation between God and him as he read through the sixty-six books of the Bible.
Love letters from Jesus.
Oh how hungry I was for his word…
I toted the book around as I continued to look at the shelves of books, wondering if I should get it. But as I skimmed a few pages, I realized that, while it probably would be a valuable tool, and God could probably use it to speak to me, I really didn’t want a second hand account. I didn’t want to read someone else’s conversation with Jesus. I wanted to have my own conversation with him.
So I returned the books to the shelves, purchased a worship CD I’d wanted for a while and drove home with a renewed sense of determination.
I have spent too many months relying on spiritual formation books rather than Scripture. I needed to get rid of the middle man and dig into God’s Word (not to say I won’t read any more of those books ever, because I’m sure I will). I wanted to have a conversation just like that author.
Easier said than done.
Why? Because I’m a perfectionist. I don’t like starting things when I’m afraid they won’t go perfectly. And as I asked God how to do this Bible-conversation thing, He reminded me of the Journaling Bible I had purchased several months ago. It would be a great tool. Lots of room to write. And draw.
But of course I argued against that idea. I had tried that months ago when I first bought the Bible, and it didn’t turn out all the great. My entries were messy and far from perfect.
But isn’t conversation messy?
If you were to sit down and track any conversation, you will no doubt be exposed to a wide array of topics, questions, disagreements, and opinions. And I was afraid of what that would look like on the pages of my nice, neat, new Bible. I had already painted and sketched on a few pages and it hadn’t turned out quite like I had hoped.
What if I kept going and it wasn’t what I expected?
Still hesitant, I asked God where to start. Should I pick up where I’d left off reading in Revelation that day? That just seemed weird. That book is already hard to understand without my having to ask questions and draw all over the page. Instead God suggested I start with something familiar.
It didn’t have to be deep or profound. I simply had to come and be open to conversation.
Plucking up my courage, I pulled the Bible out from it’s hiding place in a drawer and opened to Psalm 23. With a pen in hand and colored pencils nearby (yes, I colored in my Bible), I dove in. And the first verse got me.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
Pretty basic and very familiar. I’ve read it a dozen times. But it was that phrase “I shall not want” that got me, because lately I’ve been dealing with a lot more discontentment than peace. Out in the margin I wrote “Lord, what does it mean to want not? I don’t ever think I’ve been in that place before…”
As if in response to my question, I read the next verse: The Lord is my shepherd…He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores me soul.
I’m bogged down because of my discontentment and I’m asking what not wanting looks like and how that’s even possible, and God points me back to who He is–a Shepherd who cares for His flock, providing exactly what they need. The sheep need only to follow.
To which I respond, “But this girl isn’t very good at following quietly. I want too much…” I write out the words in the margins, feeling a tug on my heart.
And again He reminds me who He is. Restorer of my soul. Leader on the paths of righteousness. And all of it done for His name’s sake.
“Lord, despite all my waywardness, you restore me. You perform your redeeming work.”
As I read further about how God is there even in the valley of the shadow of death, how He comforts, how in the presence of my enemies He prepares a feast, I realized that not only does He work in me, but He works abundantly. And mustering up my courage, I drew a goblet overflowing to symbolize that message.
Simple things. Uncomfortable things. But in that brief time of humbling myself and letting the pages get messy with words, questions, and imperfections, Jesus met with me. He talked with me. He reminded me who I am and who He is.
I’ll be the first to admit that studying the Bible and talking with Jesus the way He calls us to is difficult. There are so many distractions and often the motivation is lacking.
For me, I’ve been worn out and haven’t had the desire or energy to dig deep. I just wanted quick and easy answers–thus my hour in the Christian bookstore. But God’s calling me deeper and He’s giving me the tools and the opportunities to come and meet with Him. It’s kind of awkward sometimes, and too often I feel like I’m going to mess something up.
Actually, just before I started writing this post I felt that pull. I had a couple of spare minutes I probably would have normally spent on social media, but instead, God invited me into His Word. I opened to the Psalms again and read another familiar passage. This time it was different. There weren’t any questions. I dress a tree and underlined some words. Nothing spectacular. It probably wasn’t even ten minutes. God asked for my time, I came reluctantly, and I walked away knowing He had met me in that moment.
So, I guess you could say I’m taking the challenge this year, to not only read through the Bible, but to engage in conversation with Jesus as I read. My journey, thoughts, questions, visuals, and God’s responses will be all over those clean white pages. It’ll probably get messy, but that’s part of the journey.
How are you currently reading your Bible? What are some ways God has encountered you through His word lately?
Live in His love!