I have always had a close relationship with God. Growing up, I never knew a time when I didn’t belive, when I didn’t know Jesus. I started reading my Bible when I was young. My faith has sustained me through the hardest times of my life.
However, I always felt like my faith was a private thing. I didn’t often talk about my prayer life, about my time spent reading my Bible, or in devotions. People knew I was a Christian, but the everyday mechanics of my faith felt like an intensely private thing to me. The heart of this was good. I didn’t want to alienate others, or make others feel intimidated by my relationship with God, or feel like they had to compare their walk with mine.
However, in that privacy, a seed of sin was planted. A tiny sprout of pride grew, and its roots settled into my heart. It looked spiritual, and sounded virtuous, so I didn’t recognize it for what it was. But when I read about Mary finding favor with God, or David being a man after God’s own heart, I smiled inwardly, feeling that I had a place amongst this elite club. I read my Bible cover to cover every year. As years passed, and I had read my Bible 10, 11, 12 times, I began to feel as if I had this God stuff figured out. It’s ironic, because I didn’t share my devotional practices with anyone because I didn’t want to seem to be bragging. And yet, my heart was as prideful as they come.
As I have written before, last year I intentionally DIDN’T read my Bible through. I spent the entire year in John. Reading a verse at a sitting, instead of many chapters. It was hard. Incredibly hard, I felt a nagging voice in my head telling me that I wasn’t achieving enough for God. But, for the first time, I was talking openly about my faith. I started speaking with a spiritual director. I started this blog. I forced myself to say out loud that I have read the Bible all the way though.
And as I let the light in, I see my faith for what it is. Strong. Ordinary. Treasured. Human. SO much more dependent on God’s faithfulness to me than mine to Him.
As the year began to draw to a close, I found myself wondering what was next. Read another book? Slow or fast? What was I to do? And then God answered. I was meeting with a girl from the youth group, and she was asking me about how to read the Word of God. We decided to read the Bible this year together. Meeting every few weeks to talk about it. Devotion, with fellowship. Accountability. Engaging together with scripture, and with God.
This is how our faith is meant to be. Don’t get me wrong- our God is PERSONAL. You can’t read scripture and not see that (check Psalm 139 for proof). But our faith is not meant to be private. God instructs Christians as a community. In scripture, most of the time when we read the word ‘you’, it is meant to be plural, not singular. John Dyer explains this concept better than I can..
…Since the Protestant Reformation we’ve tended to emphasize the salvation of the individual and, with inverse proportion, downplayed God’s work in the Church as a community of people.
There are, of course, many reasons for this, but I think that two technologies (i.e. human inventions) have exacerbated the issue: (a) The technology of the book which encourages us to encounter Scripture textually in isolation rather than orally in a group; and (b) The technology of the English language (again, a human creation) which doesn’t have an agreed upon second person plural and therefore discards or hides important biblical data.
The scriptures were originally shared orally, told from parents to children, passed along in community. Then, the New Testament was written, primarily in letter form… intended to be read aloud in church, and then passed along to other communities of believers. With invention of the printing press, the Bible was put into the hands of the individual. A priceless gift, don’t get me wrong, but one that can make us forget that we are to practice our faith in community.
So my resolution this year is to read my Bible. In community. In fact, I have begun reading it at the breakfast table, with my two kids right there. So that they can see their mother read the Word of God. And I am going to talk about it. With my teenage friend. And with others. I am going to dive deeper into friendships, say the hard and vulnerable things, and try and allow others to really know me. I am going to continue with Spiritual Direction. In sum, continue to have a PERSONAL faith, but no longer make it PRIVATE. It’s scary. But here I go…