Two things happened this morning. First, I was reading the latest in Rob Bell‘s “What Is the Bible?” series (which is very good, and I suggest you check it out). And second, I was reading back through the past few months of my own Twitter feed because I’m just that vain.
I realized as I was reading Rob Bell that SO often when it comes to theology, either I read and make an immediate judgment about what I’ve just read, or I read with judgment already in mind (or how I think the author wants me to judge). And a few times in the latest post, he’d say something, and I’d think, Yeah, that’s terrible, only for him to then say, “but that’s not a bad thing.”
Oh. Yeah, um, that’s what I said.
I seem to have trouble reading, just reading, anything theological, including the Bible. The problem with this is that when you read looking for flaws, truths, meaning, things you can apply to your life, things you can use to argue a point, or anything else, you risk missing out on the actual point. You also can’t enjoy it.
Friends I’ve been in Bible studies with tell me that I read the Bible aloud very well. Part of this ability is that I practice reading aloud A LOT in class, sometimes even doing accents and voices. The other part is that I hate hearing anything read all monotonously. I used to think other people were trying to read the Bible reverently and it just accidentally came out sounding boring, but now I think people are just reading it the way they read it in their heads.
When I read the Bible silently, it sounds boring in my head. It sounds dry and monotonous, and I feel like I should be “getting something out of it,” but I don’t. I feel like it should be magical and immediately transform my heart, but it isn’t and it doesn’t. When I read a fictional story, I get lost in it, and the words and characters stick in my brain for hours. When I read history or biography, I am fascinated by people that really existed and places and events that were real. I think about how they affected the future, how our world would be so different if not for them. When I read poetry or listen to music, I let the words flow off the page or out of the speakers, and sometimes out of my own mouth, and they are beautiful. And if I like the sound of a particular phrase or tune, I play it on repeat, in my car or my head, for the next two weeks.
But when I read the Bible, it is very serious business. And the serious-business-ness of it blocks my ability to get lost in it, to be fascinated by it, or to recognize the beauty in it. I don’t like this.
I think I make it more serious in my mind because I’ve been told all my life that God wrote it. You don’t get more serious than that. But even though I now know God to be completely loving, always interesting, and often playful, funny or silly, and even though I now believe the Bible to be a collection of stories, poems, letters and songs written about God by his people, I still read the Bible as though it were written by a stodgy old God who demands respect.
I think about God lecturing in the Bible like a very strict high school teacher, but I would like to come to see God engaging me in Scripture like Hilary Swank inThe Freedom Writers.
Which brings me back to my twitter feed. I re-tweeted a Love Does tweet a few months ago that said, “We try to figure out who’s right; God’s interested in who’s loved.” And I feel like this is related to my struggle. I’m reading the Bible trying to figure it out. I see it as some kind of theological challenge – to get all the right answers and justify my life choices based on them. But the whole point of the Bible is that God is real and here among us, loving us like crazy even though throughout the history of humanity, people have done weird and sometimes terrible things and used God to justify their life choices. We still do it today, and he still loves us.
This, I find fascinating and beautiful. This, I could get lost in.