When I decided to tackle this topic of bible engagement I visited Psalm 119, which is a beautiful psalm all about the holy scriptures. Do you know what I found? Not a bunch of rules about how often, how much, or how-to study the bible. I found language like delight, meditate, life, wonderful, hope, songs. Who doesn't need more of that?
Here's one example:
"Guilt is a poor motivator. It's very powerful, but it's also poisonous to the learning process. It kills the joy that ought to mark firsthand acquaintance with the Word. Guilt drives more people away from the Scriptures than into them."
-Howard Hendricks, Living by the Book
For two solid hours I relaxed by myself. At home in the middle of the afternoon. This never happens. What did I do?? I fixed myself a cup of pumpkin spice coffee, grabbed a soft blanket and watched my favorite TV show that recently become available on Netflix (I'm telling you, all the elements of the universe came together on this one).
This, of course, was before I declared to the world wide web I was going to spend more time studying the bible. (ahem.)
Obviously I could have spent this time studying my bible. Why didn't I? I didn't know how much time I actually had (the girls could have woken up at any time), I didn't have the "brain space" for anything that required much thought, I couldn't decide where to begin...
Actually, bottom line? I just didn't want to.
Now please understand, I'm perfectly at peace with taking a little downtime when it is available to me. But I want to make a point: I could have done anything I wanted to do at that moment, and opening my bible wasn't among the first things that crossed my mind. I'm not sure it crossed my mind at all. Which makes me wonder, when did getting into the bible become a chore instead of a delight?
Perhaps the change came when I started looking at it as another task I "should" do, but never do "right" or "enough." Good ol' fashioned guilt can sap the enjoyment out of any activity. When we do something out of obligation we often miss the benefits of the activity.
I think Howard Hendricks says it best:
"I will run in the way of your commandments
when you enlarge my heart" (Psalm 119:32)
How to start? Let me encourage you to somehow, someway, sneak a few minutes to sit down and read Psalm 119. It's long, but it is written as a collection of small passages that are perfect enjoyed together or separately. Grab a handful of verses to snack on here-and-there or feast on it all at once. Just read it as many times as you can. Soak it up. Enjoy it.
Let's just ease our way into this and find that spark that reminds us why we may want to engage the bible in the first place.
- Keep your bible OUT and OPEN. Leave it places you frequent often (kitchen counter, coffee table, wherever you keep your cell phone, etc.). When you do have a moment or two you don't even have to bother finding the passage you want -- it's open and inviting you to read!
- Get a journal you can keep close by and jot down notes as you reflect on what you read in the bible. Also, feel free to keep notes in your bible margins. This recording of thoughts is part of the engagement which is so critical and makes all the difference.
- I couldn't get the song "We Delight" by Caedmon's Call out of my head as I wrote this so I wanted to share it with you.