I hadn’t planned to do a post this week. I’m in the end of term madness and I really have to find time to do a bare minimum of communicating with the people who live with me, but because I was working anyway, I checked in with the chat on Twitter and two things happened that had me reflecting, in part, on what I read and in part of how I feel about what I’m doing.
First, there was what I can only think of as a Twitter troll who appeared to let us know that she felt the goal of reading the Bible in 90 days is pointless. Her feeling was that if you’re not studying deeply, then you’re not taking Bible reading seriously. She then went on to explain that her minor in the Bible in college created this reverence for study of the Bible. At the time, I responded and pointed out that any reading is better than no reading and that there’s value in reading quickly as well as in studying deeply.
But now that I’ve had a little time to reflect on her comments, I have to wonder about her sincerity about taking the Bible seriously in the first place. It’s pretty clear to me that in Proverbs those who mock the sincere efforts of others are not on the side of Right. And, to me, that’s what it felt like she was doing. Mocking the sincere efforts of a group of men and women to accomplish the goal of reading the whole Bible (well, minus apocrypha, but still). Now I wonder if I should have engaged with her at all. The English professor in me (which admittedly, is no small part) was a bit riled up that anyone would discourage reading at any pace. I don’t think that it’s true that the only way to gain value in something is to study it deeply. There is value in surface reading, and to suggest that there isn’t seems to me to be the work of someone who wants to undermine the whole effort/enterprise. And I think that’s a shame.
But the title is weird feelings and I’m having them. I don’t really fit in with this group that I’m reading with. Some of the women (it’s primarily women in the Twitter chats, though today’s check in post at Mom’s Toolbox is written by a guy) are, for lack of a better way of expressing it, very religious. They feel “convicted” by things. They’re not uncomfortable at all to say they’re praying for people or that they’re thankful for Jesus and so forth and so on. These are not sentiments that trip off my tongue. I’m not even sure what it means to be convicted.
And this is why it feels so weird to me, while I was defending this enterprise and arguing with this person, a small voice in my head was going, maybe she’s right. Maybe this isn’t the “right” way to read the Bible. Maybe you should drop this and try reading smaller portions every day for the rest of the year or something like that.
I thought about that little voice and how insidious it sounded. I wondered what about the timing. We’ve reached the halfway point. We’ve been meeting and talking every Monday since the beginning of January. Why did someone show up now, right when we’re getting to the “hard part.” And I wonder if I suddenly feel so conflicted because she voiced a thought that I have rolling around in the back of my head, but I know that’s not it. For me, it’s more of a “who are you to do this?” I’m not a particularly strong believer. I know that, comparatively, I am nowhere near the level of most of the women I’m reading with. I get confused by things that they say: they’re uncomfortable reading the Psalms because of David’s sin. And I don’t understand that. Is David not allowed to sing praises to God because he broke commandments?
And please understand, if you’re reading this, I’m not saying that they shouldn’t have those feelings or shouldn’t express them, I’m just saying that I find them confusing. Maybe if I felt more grounded in “the church” or if I felt more of the call that they seem to feel from God then I would understand more.
I guess this is all to say that I’m a bit confused about why I’m doing this. It doesn’t mean I’m stopping, but I’m not sure what I’d hoped to get out of it is in any way the same as what everyone else seems to be getting out of it. I’m feeling a little lost, I guess. I don’t know.
First, as long as you are reading the Bible for its actual contents (rather than scanning it for snippets of proof for future arguments) you ARE reading the Bible the right way.
The individual search for truth is easily derided by people who have taken a more prescriptive path. With some, if you took a Biblical studies minor at a public college versus a parochial institution, you would still be (in their opinion) lost in the wilderness. The same could be said for which religious institution you attended or even which professor(s) taught the courses.
Some people view their own profound experiences as the only road map to understanding.
Others (under) estimate that you will find yourself on par with a Biblical scholar or persons with more time invested when you are done. In some ways your Twitterer IS trying to derail you (whether she knows it or not).
There is no shame in seeking information, and those who understand the meaning of Christ’s words should encourage you.
You are establishing a rigorous and self-disciplined path of study in a very busy life. That takes dedication and hard work.
Yeah, I’m reading for content. I’m not trying to memorize anything. I’m not even putting a great deal of pressure on myself to remember things or keep them in order. I obviously have the tools and the know how to do that if I wanted to, but my goal, going in, was to read it all the way through, and see what I could learn from it.
I just, I don’t know, feel very out of place in discussions where they hear God talking to them through the scriptures or feel him telling them to do things. I don’t have that feeling; I’ve never had that feeling.
And it’s the talk about sin and the absolute judgment that some of them offer toward biblical figures. I don’t feel that I’m in a position to offer those judgments. Clearly, if we’re going to believe that this is the Word of God (and not inspired, as I tend to believe), then we have to also accept that he believed that we could learn from individuals who sin, or that sin doesn’t obliterate the good that people do.
I don’t know, like I said, I just feel confused and out of place. It was stronger this week because we were in an area of the Bible I know well. I’m an English professor who specializes in a heavily Protestant era of England; I’m pretty darned familiar with Psalms and Proverbs. That’s just how they rolled ;).
Reading is reading, regardless of how fast or slow. You could break the Bible into smaller parts and still not get anything out of it, because what you get out of it comes from where you heart is. For me, reading the Bible in 90 days is an incredible experience, I have wanted to read it completely for years, but have never been successful. Some areas I go a bit faster in then I would like, but I remember them to go back to for later to study later this spring. I haven’t necessarily been convicted of a lot, but I have been shown a lot, I have learned how grotesque sacrifices were which makes me thankful for Jesus, I don’t think I could handle the how temple stuff. Reading through the Old Testament, especially about the kings has shown me how no one was perfect and God still used them. And about the twitter troll, don’t let that get to you, there are some people who think if you aren’t baptized 3 times forwards you aren’t saved, or if you dance you are doing something demonic, or if you don’t read the Bible in a certain version it isn’t truth, there is always someone who has an opinion about something and they aren’t always right. The two greatest commandments: Love God, Love People, is this happening through this reading? Are you understanding God more? growing closer? are you loving people more? seeing them through different a lens? or are you further away? more critical? And for those who are saying they are convicted and on and on, don’t let them get you down, they might not be sincere, I don’t know them or their heart, but they could be just saying what they think they should say and not what is really going on. They could be like the Pharisees who would say their prayers out loud so everyone could hear them and see how religious and good they were. I’m not saying that these people aren’t genuine, they probably are, but don’t let it get you done, because you never really know and it doesn’t matter, what matters is what you are getting out of it and if what you are doing makes you Love God more and Love People more. Okay, enough of my ramblings and opinions. Hope you stick it out and that you will learn and love and grow.
Oh, I’m not going anywhere. I have every intention of continuing to read and finishing.
Honestly, I’m not sure if loving God more is happening. I have a fairly fuzzy concept of God in the first place (comes from my personal background, which in a nutshell is two parents from extremely religious families who elected to share no religion with their children; I wasn’t baptized until I was 23, and it was more of a feeling that I should be than it was that I felt “called” to do it.).
My goal going in was to try not to over-intellectualize the experience, something I’m clearly very prone to doing. Part of me desperately wants to feel what they say they’re feeling. I want so badly for all of this to be true, but I haven’t felt it and I don’t know what that means, but I worry about it. Especially in light of some of the comments.
Everyone is wired differently, someone maybe convicted or connect with God through reading, others through worship music, someone else through nature, another through prayer- don’t compare your experience with another b/c everyone is going to have a different experience and it will just bring you down. I will being praying you will experience God through this experience and have faith that moves mountains!
I am so glad that you are sticking with it.
When I read the Bible in 90 days the first time, I did so because I had LOTS of questions. And I never expected that I would do it again, much less facilitate groups at church and now this online group.
I still have questions and I still feel like I don’t know it ‘all.’ But I have learned that God will reveal to me what I need to know when I need to know it.
I don’t engage in big Biblical discussions and debates. I would probably be clobbered. But I listen and hear what the Lord tells me and try not to compare myself.
I still don’t know how to respond when someone says “God Bless You” to me (except when I sneeze) and I’ve just become a little more comfortable with the idea of praying out loud in front of someone else.
I don’t think you are alone.
My Singles pastor once asked me to keep coming to our study group because I was the only one brave enough to ask the questions many others had. The more-versed participants intimidated those of us who weren’t so ‘sure’ and wanted to explore.
Try to do your best and not let others opinions sway you. Listen , consider and move on. And then do your best to listen to the Big Guy.
I am so glad you are a part of the group. I think you offer great insight. And I can only imagine where this experience will take you next.
I came to my faith through a conversion experience, and have had some amazing experiences. Twice, the mighty wind of God communicating through someone else has blown through me, leaving me leveled. My faith is STRONG.
AND I have never made it through the whole Bible. And I am uncomfortable with stating some of the kinds of things you say you are uncomfortable saying…and sometimes I feel weird hearing them.
Stick w/ it – you aren’t doing it for anyone else anyway. Good luck!
I am so thankful that you are continuing on and participating in this group in the first place. Your background and your questions are something unique that you are bringing to the entire experience.
Many “more grounded” Christians need to hear the questions and concerns that you raise. We need to be questioned in order to think through our own beliefs more clearly.
As for the experience on Twitter, it is a shame that someone would come to discourage what you or anyone else in the group is sincerely trying to do. I commend you for sticking with your reading. There is no “right” way to read the Bible. In fact, there is a lot to be said of attempting to just read it all the way through as you are doing. It will help to give you a view of the whole of the Bible and it’s over-arching themes.