One January in junior high, my younger brother decided his New Year’s resolution was to read the entire Bible through that year. Not to be outdone and purely for the bragging rights, I decided I would do it too. Three chapters each weekday and five on Sundays would get me from Genesis to Revelation by December 31st.
I had grown up around the Bible, memorizing verses in our Wednesday night club, giving the correct answer even though mortified when called upon in Sunday school. I could get anywhere I wanted in the Bible thanks to “sword drills” and songs that helped me learn the books and their order. I could even spell Deuteronomy with ease.
But something shifted that year.
What started out as sort of a secret dare to myself to compete with my brother became the year I fell in love with Jesus. It became the year I moved from a surface understanding of Scripture to soaking up encouragement and receiving the Holy Spirit’s challenges as I read. The Bible became so much more to me that year.
Fast forward many years, two degrees from Bible colleges that required specific classes in things like hermeneutics and spiritual disciplines, and a very challenging first term overseas. My time with the Lord felt like sitting down with a boss to receive my marching orders for the day, nothing like an intimate encounter with the God who loved me. So I stopped reading the Bible, stopped having a quiet time like I had done for decades.
Is it okay to admit that in this space? Well, I guess I am. I didn’t read my Bible daily, because I wanted to love it again. I started my mornings listening to YouTube worship videos because I needed a way to express what was in my heart, to soak in a different way. It’s been a journey of coming back to a place where Scripture is my soul food, the source of holy inspiration.
In Sacred Rhythms, Ruth Haley Barton shares her journey of moving from information to transformation, from the head to the heart as she spent time with Scripture. She encourages us to read for relationship, savoring, reading slowly. She said, “Like the little boy Samuel, we approach the Scripture with utter openness and availability to God: ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening’ (1 Samuel 3:9). In this listening stance, Scripture becomes an instrument of God’s control rather than a tool that we control to our own ends. Then, as God speaks to us through Scripture, we respond to what we read with our heart and soul rather than just our intellect.”
I love again the gentle questions Barton offers that we can ask ourselves as we read Scripture. How do I feel about what is being said? Where do I find myself resisting, pulling back, wrestling with what Scripture might be saying? And then not judging my responses but just observing. What do my reactions tell me about myself?
Have you had experience with the practice of lectio divina? I first learned about it in college but haven’t practiced it for a long time. Lectio divina means “sacred reading” and according to Barton, dates back to the early church fathers. It is “rooted in the belief that through the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures are indeed alive and active as we engage them for spiritual transformation”. It strips away our human agenda so we can be more open to what God wants to speak to us, work in us, through His Word. Barton gives an excellent overview of the steps and process of lectio divina at the end of Chapter 3.
What has been your experience with Scripture reading through the years? Is lectio divina a tool you’ve used to connect with God through His Word? What are other ways that have resonated with you? Have you had seasons where you’ve had to change up your routine of time with the Father? I’d love to hear your thoughts and stories in the comments!
Here’s the plan for the rest of the book! Join Rachel the next two weeks for some great discussion.
March 26: Chapter 4
April 2: Chapter 5
April 9: Chapter 6
April 16: Chapter 7
April 23: Chapter 8
April 30: Chapter 9 and Appendices