(Today’s blog begins a new series on spiritual disciplines, or ways we communicate with God. The collection will include various writers who offer their thoughts on methods of spiritual development. This week’s focus is on Scripture Reading.)
What is a discipline? Is it a form of correction? Is it something we do to fix a problem? Combine that perspective with the key word “spiritual” and a lot of us don’t want to participate. If we’re not careful, we might believe these are God’s little helpers designed to straighten us out. But what if “fixing” isn’t quite the goal here at all? What if it’s something closer to “connecting”? Connecting us to the God who already made up His mind about us. Spiritual Disciplines will never do what we could never do. That took a Savior. Yes, change will naturally occur the more we connect with God, but Spiritual Disciplines aren’t how we remove our sin. They are an invitation to have a relationship with the God who loves us and accepts us already.
Reading Scripture- Have you ever considered why a certain movie is your favorite? Maybe you enjoy action movies and seeing how your favorite hero somehow pulls everything off. Or maybe you enjoy watching a redemption story about a character no one expected much of. No matter what your favorite is, you probably somehow relate or are inspired by some element of the story. For me, I love The Lion King because I know what it’s like to have to face and overcome the loss of father. Somehow, relating to Simba’s redemption helps me process my own need for it.
What if we went to the Bible in a similar way, not looking to it simply as a book of principles to live by, but as a story to find ourselves in? What if we saw Jesus on the cross not just as God’s solution for our sin-problem; but as the innocent friend dying in our place when we deserved it? What if we saw in Moses’ story God offering us grace and redemption when we felt the most disqualified by our mistakes? Would we continue to see Paul’s letters as lists of dos and don’ts, or would we see them as the passionate appeal of a leader who only has our best interest in mind?
Scripture Reading is as much about the heart as it is about the mind. It’s not just about getting answers; it’s about finding yourself in God’s story and realigning yourself with who God says you are. A lot of times I get out of touch with who I am because I don’t process life through what God has to say. Sometimes I let my feelings and thoughts determine how I view life and that always leads me astray. When I go to the Bible, I don’t always come away with a definitive revelation or brand new concept that changes everything. A lot of times I simply walk away a lot healthier and at ease, and I don’t always know why. Something about getting into the Word makes me realize my place and see that I’m not the director or hero of my story.
Interestingly enough, that frees me. Instead of feeling like I’ve got to save myself and get better, I read about the God who offers salvation to anyone who calls on His name. I read about men and women who literally changed history because they were just crazy enough to take God at His word. I realize I’m not strong enough, smart enough, and definitely not holy enough to accomplish what I feel called to, but that’s okay! Neither were the men and women we read about in the Bible, but they turned out alright.
Scripture Reading certainly isn’t the only spiritual discipline, but it is the foundation for all others. Through it we gain an understanding of God and ourselves. By it we learn what God is like and what God likes to do: use broken people like us. We add unnecessary stress to the equation when we ask questions like, “How much should I read?” or “When do I know I’ve done enough?” When we start there, it usually means we’re trying to check something off a list. Honestly, I think we all struggle with that from time to time. Truly committing yourself to doing it out of love instead of obligation isn’t easy. Start from a place of faith and excitement. God is longing to reveal Himself to you more and more. Don’t get discouraged if something miraculous doesn’t pop in your head right away. Slow down and enjoy the time with Him.