Last year I read the entire Bible and this is what happened.
I laughed out loud when John Crist tweeted "Shoutout to everyone reading Genesis 1:1 this morning", on Monday morning.
Last year (like most years!) I got nearly six weeks in to the She Reads Truth Bible in a Year Plan before my lack of discipline and tendency to never finish what I start reared its familiar face. However, in the spring, a woman in my church called me out on my lack of consistency and lovingly challenged me to read the entire New Testament in 21 days. In all honesty, I didn't want to do it, but I felt I had to in order to save face at church (which, admittedly, isn't the greatest reason to read the Bible, but maybe the Lord knew that's what it would take for me to say yes). It was daunting, but she and a couple other women offered to support me through the challenge. I did it, and man, oh, man. I needed it. Reading the Bible in big chunks like that made me see recurring themes better and I was able to hone in on God's consistent character and message for His people, including me. When my 21 day challenge was over, it spurred me on to read the entire Old Testament (which I have always loved!). I did this along with the Seamless study by Angie Smith, which was really helpful.
Some background: At the top of the 21 day challenge, I entered in to a very lonely, incredibly humbling, painful spot. When I look at my life as a whole, that spring is one of the deepest valleys I have ever had as an adult. Chris loved me well through that (and continues to do so!), but at times I was inconsolable. The only thing that placated me was crying in my closet in earnest prayer and reading the Bible. I was hungry for the comfort I found in God's word. I was so hungry for it that I found that I had finished reading the entire Bible by June.
But in June, things started to turn around. I had prayed fervently for just one good friend and got two, I reconnected with some old friends unexpectedly, and I found that parenting had gotten a little easier with my children reaching ages 3, almost 5, and almost 7. I started making friends in my neighborhood, I found outlets for my pent up creative energy, and my health was great, so I was feeling great.
I no longer had cause to cry in my closet. I started to feed off the crumbs of these new relationships and new triumphs instead. That's the tricky thing about entering into a new season that's easier than the previous. I wasn't being driven to the Bible by my heartache or ill ease with my weaknesses anymore. Things were looking up, so I stopped looking up.
The more I ate these crumbs, the more crumbs I wanted. Having two good friends wasn't good enough; I wanted more. Reconnecting with old friends wasn't good enough; I wanted to deepen the relationships. Having healthy children who could all wipe their own bottoms and who loved to learn wasn't good enough; I wanted them to be well behaved and self sufficient ALL the time. I didn't just want to be known in my neighborhood, I wanted to be the "cool mom" who everyone wanted to be friends with. I didn't just want to write as a hobby, I wanted all the perks that used to come with being a well known blogger. Feeling healthy wasn't good enough; I wanted to be model-fit.
By August, I had started bargaining with God. "Help my marriage get better, and I'll be submissive to my husband's leadership." "Make my kids behave, and I'll be a more patient mom." "Give me more money, and I'll start spending wisely."
By November, I looked around me and found myself in another valley. On paper, I had gotten exactly everything I had prayed for in the spring, however, I had grown restless and felt untethered. I was unsatisfied and hungry for anything but God's word. I was unduly angry and ungrateful. I laughed less, isolated myself a little more, and slept very little. Then my new friendships started slipping. Then my health. Then my ability to give others grace. And before I knew it, I had become my very least favorite kind of person: a habitual complainer.
But then, an epiphany!
I don't want to live a life that is only dependent on God during the hard times! I don't want to read the whole Bible and say, "Okay. Good enough."! I don't want to try to make a meal out of crumbs when I have access to the bread!
So this isn't a new year's resolution or anything like that (let this decade old blog prove that I'm terrible at those), but I need to be in the Word daily. I need to feast on it, not for the checkbox of reading the Bible in a year (been there, done that), but because I HAVE to believe that it is the only thing that can truly satisfy me. Even when things are good, I need to be prayerful and grateful. The crumbs of life that I enjoy? The friendships? The good days? The laughter? All God.
I need to do what it takes to cultivate discipline, thankfulness, and prayerfulness in my life... during all seasons, hard and easy.
My new plan is to read the Bible again, this time in the historically chronological order from my readers Bible (I tend to get lost in footnotes and cross references and looking up historical facts that go along with my reading because it's all so interesting to me; a reader's Bible doesn't have verse or chapter references). Once a week, I'll do a prompt from this Gratitude Journal for moms, and I'll write things down to help me remember: prayers, answers to prayers, things I learn about God, things I learn about myself through God's Word, and my confessions.
More than anything else in the Bible, God tells us to "remember". That's what I'm going to spend this year (and hopefully the rest of my life) doing: remembering that Jesus is the living bread. My desire should be for Him instead of the crumbs.
I'm reminded of this CS Lewis quote from The Weight of Glory:
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Happy new year, y'all. My prayer for us both is that we remember; that we remember that Jesus did not come into the world mainly to give bread, but to BE bread. Jesus Christ did not come into the world to assist us in meeting our desires (which may be good: a better marriage, to be a better mom, to have deeper friendships, etc). He came into the world to change our desires so that He is the main one, the first one.
So let us feast on that this year!
- Bread of Life discourse // John 6: 27-59
- The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis
- Jesus Came Not Just to Give Bread, but to Be Bread by John Piper
- Seamless: Understanding the Bible as One Complete Story by Angie Smith
- Bible in a Year Reading Plan by She Reads Truth
- Bible in 90 Days Reading Plan
- Chronological Daily Bible in a Year Reading Plan
- CSV Readers Bible
- Gratitude Journal for Mothers by Karen Stubbs