“I feel like a heretic for saying this,” I told my friend, “but I feel I saw Jesus more in our community last year than I did in scripture.” As the words came out of my mouth, I forced a sideways smile to try and hide the guilt I felt inside for even thinking such a thing. I dipped another chip into the salsa bowl, honestly expecting him to agree with my self-characterization. I should have expected better of my friend, but we’ll get to that.
Confession: There were months I didn’t read the Bible last year.
Stay with me.
We went through some hard days last year, as I’ve written about before. What was different for me this year was how the place of refuge I had run before seemed to offer…none. Many times I’d open it up to read, but the words seemed to run right off the page. There were days I couldn’t open it at all, and then there were days where the words would make me angry.
Before you stop reading or light me up with a comment, please be patient and hear me out: I’m not saying Scripture doesn’t matter. Please don’t read that into this! I am so grateful for the Word of God, so very grateful for how He still speaks through those pages, grateful for the way He has spoken to me over the years. But, and I don’t think I’m alone in this, there are times when I simply couldn’t do it.
And yet there weren’t many days where I didn’t see the love of God lived out in technicolor through the lives of our friends and family. It reminded me of a saying I’ve heard: “Your life may be the only Bible some person ever reads.” I’m pretty sure that quote is used most often to critique sinful behaviors or non-Christ-like actions. However, last year, those near to us became the Word lived-out.
It wasn’t an idea or simply words on a page; it was reality. Our friends stepped in to care for us, to let us know they were there. Whether it was a phone call, a cup of coffee shared, a meal prepared, or just a few minutes of time, it was real and tangible. And it spoke volumes.
Perhaps most powerful to me was a night with our community group in late November. It was just the guys, circled up in a friend’s living room, sharing what was going on in their lives. As the evening went on, the guys were sharing where God had spoken to them in Scripture during the week. I hadn’t planned to say anything, but it just came pouring out: “I haven’t read the Bible, other than Sunday morning at church, in 63 days, according to my handy dandy Bible app. I try, and just can’t.”
I confessed the depression weighing on me, which was even more confusing seeing how our family was finally coming out of a really rough season. I told them I knew the memory verses, and I knew the power in the Scripture, but I just felt like everything was…dry. That’s what it felt like, dry like the desert.
I was fearful of what they’d think if I was honest in my struggle. The temptation to keep it close to the vest and play it safe was real. However, my fears were unfounded. There was no judgment. There were no quick fix solutions offered. Instead, those guys thanked me for opening up, and then they not only asked if they could pray for me, but they stopped and did so, right then and there.
It was a good night, a blessing in so many ways. It wasn’t as if the darkness lifted in that moment. In fact the next several days would seem pretty much the same as the ones which came before. Yet I began to realize shortly thereafter the dark had begun to lift, ever so slowly.
That night was a watershed moment for me, something I didn’t expect. This time I couldn’t white knuckle my way through. I couldn’t do this on my own, couldn’t stir up enough resolve to get through. No, I needed help. In the honesty of my own struggles and the love and prayers of my friends, the grace of God broke through and the fog began to clear.
Fast forward through the holidays to that weekday lunch at our local Tex-Mex eatery. My friend, after my confession of my lack of Bible reading, didn’t come back with condemnation and a 4 chapter reading plan as the solution. Instead, he looked at me and said “I don’t think that’s heretical. I think that sounds like Ephesians 4.”
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”Ephesians 4:15-16 ESV
Those folks were doing what the Scriptures teach. They were living the words as they cared for us. They were “working properly” so that the whole body could be built up in love. In many ways, they were doing the work of holding up my weak spiritual arms when I simply couldn’t anymore. I don’t think “grateful” even begins to scratch the surface of how I feel.
In light of all this, as the new year began I decided to try again. I got up that first morning, before anyone else, and started the coffee. As I sat in my chair with my Bible and a journal, I was a little worried. What if it was still dry? What if the words ran off the page? I opened to Ephesians 4 and began to read. Slowly.
I’ll figure I’ll hang out there for a bit. I’m not starting a reading plan or trying to get through the entire bible this year. I’m trying not to take in information for information’s sake, or worse, to simply check off a box, but rather to truly lean in and hear what the Spirit is saying, to dwell on the Word. I want to simply let God speak. If and when I find myself in a spot like I was last year, when things get dry or I can’t find my way, I’ll know I’ve got my community around me to help me find the rails again.