When I was 19, I was at University in Texas. My parents, who were in England, sent me money from home: "Go and buy a Bible, our gift," they said.
So I did. I chose a beautiful leather-bound New King James Bible in a box.
Well, that box sat mostly unopened for the next nineteen years. But now I'm now going to fast-forward to myself as a 38-year old agnostic, living in New Zealand:
I had met Bryce in Texas shortly after buying that Bible, and moved to New Zealand, his homeland. The Bible moved with me. And one day while my two children were at school, in my house in Auckland I knelt down beside a cupboard to retrieve that precious box.
A golden moment!
Setting the box on my bed, I peeled back its lid and withdrew the treasure within. I ran my hand over the red-brown leather, fingering the gold leafed pages. Would I find the Bible to be supernatural, or the hand of man?
And so I carried it over to an armchair, settled in and started to read. The house was peaceful. Genesis 1:1 'In the beginning...'
Well, once I opened that book, I can tell you, something happened to me. All the way through the laws of Leviticus and Deuteronomy I read with fascination. The minor prophets felt like gripping page-turners. I realized there was a man called Paul who wrote much of the New Testament -- who knew? And by the time I reached Revelation 22, I sat back and closed its pages. "WOW", was my reaction.
That first time through I googled as I read. For example, I looked up the historicity of every king in Kings and Chronicles. The empires in the book of Daniel, I googled. I asked God questions throughout, sticking those questions on post-it notes into the Bible. My mind and heart were hungry. It was a highly personal experience.
And needless to say, by the fact I'm writing this, it's clear that I decided the Bible was supernatural. After that, it became my daily food.
I rise with bleary eyes, throw on a robe and brew a cup of tea. I grab Bible, ruler and pen, and carry all that 'equipment' to my bed. I prop the pillow up, throw myself back into bed and read, luxuriously. I underline things and write prayers, thoughts and questions in the margin.
Bryce potters in the kitchen or gets dressed while I'm reading.
After that, the Bible and I move into the main area of the house, where I carry on reading, this time with the boys pottering around me, getting ready for school.
And then after they've gone and the house is peaceful, I read a little more.
How do I do it now? I read all sixty-six books of the Bible in no particular order, and tick off every book once I've read it so that I give all the books attention. I say to God, 'which book shall I read next?' and then I dive in, letting it speak to me. I've just finished Judges, and then jumped into Philippians today.
Why do I read all of it rather than just the New Testament? I feel that the whole thing is God's love letter to humanity. What's more, the Old Testament tells me just as many valuable things as the New Testament does about how God works with people, and about Jesus.
I write lots of questions for God as I read, but I don't mind mystery either.
And what I love is that the Bible I bought all those years ago was so fit for purpose -- God knew exactly what I'd need and like. It has wide margins for all my questions, and references to show where the same word or idea is found in other verses. I use those references daily, looking up linkages across the Bible and seeing how the different parts link to each other.
Wow... I could write so much more, but my word count's up. Funnily, I wrote this before I read Ian's post on Wednesday, and it delighted me to read his version. Amanda is next -- I can't wait to see her take on it.
In the meantime, have our two posts so far brought anything to mind for you? Share away in the comments!