My husband likes to call me the great skeptic. The term “devil’s advocate” just may have been coined with me in mind. I thrive on concocting hundreds of complex scenarios and possible explanations for things that aren’t clear-cut or don’t fit into neat little boxes with perfectly tied ribbons on top, in an attempt to uncover a definitive answer. The right answer.
Perhaps this is why faith and religion have always been a struggle for me. The requirement of being certain of what I do not see trips me up quite a bit. It’s kind of like a form of cruel and unusual punishment to a control freak like me. I think it also explains why I never had much interest in the Bible. It’s too messy, and it seems full of contradictions. It was written thousands of years ago, so how could it possibly have any applicability to life today? Aside from that, how can its text be trusted, and how can it be viewed as authoritative if its content is subject to so much interpretation? However, as life changes in recent years have challenged me to loosen my grip on the false safety net of perceived control I have been clenching, I’ve become increasingly drawn to the Bible. Maybe there’s something to this book after all. Maybe it has withstood the test of time for a reason. Maybe, just maybe, it is deserving of my time and attention.
I started reading the Bible about 18 months ago. I started timidly, uncertain of where to start and how to do it, and a little afraid of where it might lead me. It’s a big book, even to someone who likes to read. Starting at the beginning didn’t seem right to me. I had to get a feel for this bad boy before I really dove in. So I started reading it in bits and pieces, using daily devotional books to guide me. It was a good starting point, but after a while I felt a bit like a pinball in an arcade game, bouncing around haphazardly at the will of another person (the devotional author), and often ending up in the same places over and over. I was ready for more. I wanted the context and history that formed the foundation for the well-loved and often quoted passages and verses, because maybe if I could understand their history and context, I could finally find the faith to trust in the truth found in those words.
In early September, I opened my Bible at the beginning, Genesis 1, and began my yearlong commitment to myself to read it in its entirety. I’ll be honest. From the very beginning, the skeptic in me came raging back. At times, I could understand why some atheists will say that if you want proof that there is no God, just read the Bible. Some of it is inconsistent with what we scientifically know to be true today. Some of the behaviors engaged in by God’s chosen people were nothing short of barbaric by today’s standards. Women seemed to be nothing more than property, free to be prostituted or otherwise used to the benefit of the male “heroes”. Slavery was the norm and acceptable. Violence and plagues seemed to be the way to get things done. By the time I finished Genesis and rolled into Exodus, I was pretty angry with God. If He’s so great and full of love, why would he bestow honor on people doing such bad things?
One morning, all of this anger and dismay and frustration at God came tumbling out to my husband. He thanked me for sharing, he laughed at me a little (he can’t help but get a chuckle at the great skeptic from time to time) and he told me to keep reading. It’s a long story, he reminded me, with lots of twists and turns, and a real doozy of an ending (this coming from a man who has never read the Bible himself). So I kept going, but I was unsure how I much longer I was going to be able to trudge through all this Old Testament darkness without a little bit of light for counterbalance from time to time. It seemed serendipitous a few weeks later when I received an envelope from the church my family has been attending for the past year and a half, containing a letter from our Pastor, inviting us to join him on “Route 66: A Biblical Journey” (a year-long journey through the sixty-six* books of the Bible). Along with the letter, there was a daily reading schedule, which included an Old Testament selection, a selection from the Psalms, and a New Testament selection. Now this I can do.
So today, September 30th, along with my husband and other members of my church family, I begin my Bible reading quest again, with a refresher on the first few chapters of Genesis, a quick Psalm, and a chapter of Matthew. (It took me just under 20 minutes to complete.) If it is in your heart to join us on our trip down into the rabbit hole, I have attached a copy of the daily reading schedule.
This Bible reading plan is a part of The Bible Challenge Program. You can find additional resources at www.thecenterforbiblicalstudies.org.
*Some versions of the Bible contain more than 66 books. The additional books are known as the apocryphal and deuterocanonical books. I’ll be honest, I have no idea what they are or what any of that means. I’m a Biblical rookie. But in the words of my Pastor, “Though our tradition does not include them as part of Scripture, they are considered to be written by godly people and useful for devotion. Therefore, if you would like to explore them, we encourage you to purchase a Bible that includes them.” I plan to get a Bible that includes them (or, I guess I could start by checking if the Bible I have been using already contains them).