As with most years in the past twenty-or-so years I am beginning with the good intention of reading through the Bible. The whole Bible. After all, it's what Christians do, right? And I am a reader. Anyone who knows me knows that I love to read; anyone who has been to my home has seen the plain evidence that I love to read in the vast shelves of books that fill our living room.
So in the past twenty-or-so years how many times do you suppose I have accomplished this feat?
Last year I learned of the Bible reading plan that treats the reading as if you are reading a novel. When I read a novel I don't stick to three chapters a day (I once read that 3 chapters a day portions the Bible perfectly for one year of reading.). When I read a novel I dive in and read until my eyes can't focus. I take every opportunity to get at the novel and it consumes every "spare" moment of each day. So I dove into the Bible last January 1st and read through until I was finished. I'll confess that I did skip Psalms and Proverbs until I finished Revelation, but only because I usually bog down in them and lose momentum in the poetry after the narratives of the earlier books.
So today I began again with Genesis 1:1 and read until I was interrupted by a phone call.
"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
These beginning chapters are so very familiar, if only because I have begun with them in so many false-starts over the past twenty-or-so years. This year I think I will take the one-book-at-a-time approach. Yes, I read three chapters today, neat and clean. But this time through I'll hold my focus to one book at a time, re-reading paragraphs as needed, meditating on the portions that grab my attention, slowing down over those sections that seem too familiar in an attempt to read them with new eyes.
Observation from today's reading: When Eve was tempted in the garden to eat the fruit of the one tree out of the many that God had forbidden to them, her focus narrowed to what had been withheld and the promise of knowing something that God had kept hidden, according to the tempter. I was reminded of the to-many things that I have come to regret knowing. There are things that are a blessing to know, and there are things that are a curse to know. Some knowledge eats away at your heart, haunts your waking and your sleeping, and destroys relationships.
The knowledge with which God had blessed Adam and Eve was fruitful, delightful, and relationship-strengthening. The knowledge dangled before them by Satan was hidden for a reason, but once known, it couldn't be un-known. Once they gained the cursed knowledge brought about by disobedience to their loving Creator they could not wipe that slate clean and simply forget. They were drawn away from God by this knowledge and their (and our) relationship with Him forever altered for the worse.
I'm not saying that ignorance is bliss. But I do believe that I don't need to fully explore evil in order to understand what it is. I am not always strengthened by what I learn. There are some things I have seen and heard which return to mind unbidden and bring only pain and fear. There are things that I know which draw me down dark and burdensome paths rather than enlightening my heart and mind.
Yet there is a knowledge which is deeper than all my fear and pain, a knowledge which brings hope, comfort, and peace. That is the knowledge that God, from before creation, planned to rescue His lost children even before Adam and Eve made their terrible choice. Knowing the depths from which I have been rescued and the lengths to which Christ went to save me draws me toward the light of His glory and fills my heart to overflowing with joyful gratitude. As Paul said, and I pray that each reading of Scripture this year helps to accomplish further in me,
"I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord."
Happy New Year! May 2015 bring you blessing and a deeper knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.