Something near the end of Eugene Peterson’s book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction reminded me of two things. One was a recent comment I read in passing on a social networking site that said something to the effect of, “I’m reading the Bible through in a year! How about taking the challenge with me!?” This reminded me of the second thing: I had made that a goal of mine… more than two years ago. Why haven’t I met that goal? I am one person who cannot do the challenge of reading the Bible through in a year. That just doesn’t work for me.
Peterson eased my mind about this when he explained to me the fusion of God’s Word to us and our words to Him in prayer is how the Holy Spirit forms the life of Christ in me. This fusion is done by reading Scripture “slowly, imaginatively, prayerfully and obediently.” I resonated with the imaginatively part. I have a very active imagination. God has met me many times in my inner mystical realm to explain Scripture to me as I see His story played out in my mind. The Holy Spirit helps me feel and experience the Bible as my story, too, in that spiritual connection.
This process of using my imagination has made me a better storyteller in communicating God’s Word to others. It is the main reason I cannot read the Bible through in a year. Imagining takes up a lot of time, and that habit is simply too valuable to me to read without it. I find if I cannot meditate on the Word (another way to say “using my sanctified imagination”), I either read without much retention, or I start and quit because I am not getting anything from it—or it is not getting anything from me. I respect the Word too much to treat it as a quick snack. The Word is a sit-down meal meant to be enjoyed with another—the King of kings and Lord of lords. Somehow I don’t see myself swinging by to say to a king, “Hey, I was in the neighborhood and thought I’d stop by to say hi.’ Well, that’s all I have time for—catch ya later!” This can’t be what Peterson’s fusion is about.
Through the years of reading God’s Word, studying it and meditating on it, I have learned God reveals Himself to me in very intimate ways—not to say He couldn’t do that if I chose to read the Bible through in a year. As I said, two years ago I started to read the Bible through, and I still continue to do so; but I do it differently. I am not seeking to do it in a year, just seeking to do it. I have a spreadsheet made up with all the books of the Bible, their chapters and a box I cross off every time I get a couple read. I have about a dozen Old Testament and New Testament books left to get through. I prepare the lessons for our church’s ABFs to use each month, which allows me to delve into more specific segments of God Word as I saturate myself in the study, imagining it from several angles, allowing each commentator’s expansion to enlighten my mind as I ponder: “What would it have been like to have been there with Jesus, in that moment, hearing those sounds of the sea, the crowds, the other disciples?”
I am blessed with each step of my meditative journey God graces me with in my sanctified imagination. I set out for 30 to 45 minutes to meet with God in the closet of my imagination—and God meets with me there. Sometimes I get lost in being with Him. Let me say that again but slower: God…meets…with…me. This is what makes not just reading God’s Word but meditating on it a means of grace for me. This helps me to feel and know it is OK not to get through the Word in a year—because the Word is getting through to me. Peterson encourages me again with the words, “Bible reading is prayed reading.”
For those who need goals in front of them to spur them on to good deeds, reading through the Bible is a worthy venture. Remembering, though, there is more to the Bible than just reading it as you would the daily newspaper.
Kent Kessler was called into ministry as a sophomore in high school in 1983 and has more than 25 years of ministry experience. He is currently a technology specialist at the local fifth and sixth grade school and has been married more than 17 years to his wonderful wife, Melissa, with whom he parents their four young children. Kent’s family resides in Upland, Indiana.