It occurred to me this morning why being a Biblical procrastinator isn’t wise for me. As I read the Bible, my goal each year is not necessarily to read every book, chapter, and word. Some years I want to read very slowly, maybe read the same chapter three separate times in a day, to try and see what I’ve been missing in certain books and sections of Scripture. Some years I do my best to consume large chunks, to try and grasp the “big picture”, over-arching themes that can get lost in the minutia. There’s no magic formula for which I am going to do year to year, but usually around November i’ll start trying to decide how I’m going to approach the Scriptures for the next twelve months.
This year, as it happens, I am looking to read the entire book. As a rule over the last few years, I haven’t been as concerned with tracking my progress via chapters read as much as by seeing the Bible in terms of books. I set a goal to read a certain book by a certain time. How I go about doing that is different depending on the layout and length of the book. I find it silly to think that I should stop reading Philippians with one chapter remaining (in the classic three chapter per day format); some books should be read in one or two sittings regardless of length.
I offer all of that backdrop simply to say this: when I read through the Bible non-chronoligically, I tend to succumb to the temptation to leave three books till the end every time. Those three books: Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. They are long, cumbersome, and in many places almost unintelligible to me. So much context has to be understood to even capture the simple essence of some sections that I easily get lost and bogged down. Granted there are oasis’ of beauty and promise and hope throughout all of them, but I find those passages to be like streetlights that illuminate a small circle of the road as I am trying to walk through a strange neighborhood.
After reading the last couple of days about the numerous oracles concerning God’s judgments on foreign lands, I found myself this morning without much tangible encouragement to show for my toil. I couldn’t land a finger on a verse or a sentence that really blazed out of the darkness to create a topic to meditate on or write about. And then I realized that this realization, perhaps, was the point.
The thought is nor original with me, but as I look back across the landscape of my life there are very few meals that I can remember eating. Very few main courses stick out in my mind. Very few dessert choices emerge as I try and return to the thousands of meals that I have consumed over the span of my days. But what I know for a fact, as is evidenced by the reality that I am still here, is that I did eat something for the majority of my days over the last thirty-five years. I don’t have to remember what it was, and really, I didn’t have to like it at the time of consumption, in order for it to have sustained my life. In a bizarre irony, I am alive today because of a thousand things that I consciously participated in but have no recollection of.
I can’t help but think of some of these seasons of reading in the same way. I don’t always have incredibly memorable thoughts or insights into the things I read. I don’t always have earth-shaking, life-altering moments with the text for the day. But what I do believe, fully and wholly, is that over the course of my Christian life, as I have followed Christ, I have been nourished and sustained and kept alive by things that are largely forgettable. The truth is, for me anyway, I am still Christian because of a thousand things that were not very exciting. True, I remember most of the meals I ate in Italy thirteen years ago on vacation, but those dozen lunches and dinners were obviously not enough to keep me alive until now. They had their place on those days. Similarly, I remember some chapters I’ve read and sermons I’ve heard (and less that I’ve preached), that I will never forget. But those memorable times were sustenance for their season and could not keep me alive and vibrant and healthy in my spirit for any longer than those moments.
So friends, I encourage you, if you are reading things that don’t make sense in passages that aren’t discernable, in books that seem distant, just keep reading. The chicken sandwich you ate when you were twelve didn’t make that much of an impact either but it was a link in the chain that got you this far.