Last year I tried something new and different. For an entire year, I purposely chose to NOT read the Bible. Now, before you go all Duck Dynasty on me, keep reading. :)
Every year in late December I find myself wanting to try something new as far as Bible-consumption goes. Sometimes I’ll start a new reading plan or pick up the latest and prettiest devotional book that promises to bring me closer to Jesus. But for reasons I don’t particularly remember, I was ready for something totally different. So for 2013, instead of reading the Bible as part of my daily (or my attempt at daily) routine, I chose instead to listen to it. I guess I was curious to learn and digest scripture the way Jesus and other Jewish boys of His earthly days would have done. They would sit in the synagogue and listen. They’d hear the stories over and over and over again, until it became second-nature to them. Oral tradition was the only way stories of God’s people were passed down. So I thought I’d give it a try for a year, knowing it would be a challenge and take a lot of discipline.
While at home or on my runs, I pressed play on my Bible app and listened to the day’s selected readings from both the Old and New testaments. At church, when the pastor began his/her sermon and asked the congregation to open their Bibles for the reading of the Word, I rebelled and instead chose to close my eyes and open my ears. Here are a few things I learned from the year:
First of all, props to the dude narrating this app. Some of those names are straight crazy, and I’m dying to know how many takes it took him to finally say some of them correctly.
Listening forced me to take it all in, and made me realize how easy it is to simply skim when I’m reading, especially laborious books like Numbers, Leviticus, and admittedly, Matthew’s begats. I remember specifically listening to Leviticus on a run one day, and had to stop running because the tears and snot were flowing so freely. I suddenly had a new realization of how bloody and gross some of that book is, but at the same time, a new and profound appreciation for Jesus as my spotless Lamb. Before I had only skimmed over the bloody parts, and on my run that particular day, I was held captive as I listened to the demanding instructions given to the priests as they made preparations, once again, to make atonement for the sins of the people. I had read these instructions many times before, but in skimming, had I really taken it in? I’ve always heard, sung, or referred to Jesus as the Lamb of God, but that day on the trail listening to Leviticus changed it for me.
The Psalms, specifically Psalm 100, 136, 139, and 150, came alive to me in a new way, especially as a songwriter. It was as if I could hear the people chanting and/or singing responsively, “His love endures forever” as the psalmist recounted God’s actions with praise. Listening to the Psalms makes me wish I could see the instant replay of David as he wrote many of these. What did his instruments and voice sound like? And would he have needed Auto Tune? Doubtful...
4.It was fun to hear my kids’ comments if they would stumble upon me listening, either while folding laundry, putting on make-up, or loading the dishwasher. It opened up great conversations between us about the Bible. It was especially fun if they recognized the story I was listening to, and they’d usually stay to keep listening.
As I listened to the end of Revelation, I couldn’t help but throw my hands in the air in joyful celebration, with tears flowing down my cheeks. It is done! He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. This beautiful and captivating love letter from Almighty God, written thousands of years ago, complete with agony, sorrow, and the promise that Love ultimately wins. Justice reigns. Hope assured. Sin redeemed. People forgiven. Humanity restored through Jesus. This living, breathing Word, relevant to my everyday joys and sorrows, is complete yet ready to be consumed again and again and again and again for as long as I live and breathe.
I’m grateful for what I learned about myself through this 12-month auditory adventure: I’m easily distracted, and not as disciplined as I’d like to be. I might try this again in another year or two, but for now, I’ll rinse out my contacts and get back to reading...