Friday, January 01, 2010

Reading the Bible in a Year

For three years now I have resolved to read the Bible through in a year. I have failed each time. As I gaze into the clean and shiny new year, I wonder what to do with this failed commitment. I have decided to examine whether to keep this goal or discard it, and, if I keep it, what do I need to change in order to meet it?

First, is it a goal I ought to pursue at this point in my life? That may seem a strange question to my Christian friends-- I agree that we should want to read the Bible as much as possible! But when I think about my lack of motivation in this area, I realize that I do a lot of Bible reading, and a lot of reading in general, as part of my work teaching the kids. I love to read, and I do not shirk scripture. The kids and I currently have books going in both the Old and New Testaments, averaging a chapter per day during the schoolweek. In addition, all three kids have personal Bible study books going that we discuss. I have my own Bible study books going as well, although more intermittently.

I am in the scriptures practically every day. Why push myself to personally read every single word in one year? Just so I can say I have done it? That sounds prideful. I do not need one more thing to encourage my self-righteousness. It does just fine by itself, thank you.

There must be another reason.

Reading the Bible through in a year is the precursor to reading the Bible through *every* year. Why would a person do that?

Early this past year, I realized that if I were going to knuckle down and really do this, I was going to have to change my way of reading for this particular task. When I read something important, I look things up. I stop and ponder. I reread. I flip to other portions of the book to see if things connect. These are great things to do, but when the goal is to read through the Bible in a year, concurrent with other Bible studies, it may be better to restrict myself to just reading the text and moving on. Similar to, but not quite the same as, reading a novel for enjoyment. I enjoy reading in depth, getting every last bit of meaning I can out of a text. I am a pretty intense person. Reading a novel for enjoyment is a different kind of enjoyment, more relaxed. Maybe it would be better to get closer to that kind of reading, without completely going into the novel-before-bedtime approach. (Can you tell I am having a hard time explaining this?)

So why just read the text and move on, when it is so rich?

This year I made the most progress ever on my read-the-Bible-in-a-year goal. For instance, I made it all the way to 1 Kings in the Old Testament, whereas before I always fizzled out in Leviticus. It was different this year because many days, when I read, I simply read the words and then went about my day with prayer. The Lord worked in my mind throughout the day, illuminating the truth of a passage that perhaps I didn't even understand at the time I read it. Reading quickly also helped me to see the big picture, so easy to miss when doing in-depth Bible study. When I read in this way, I was able to accomplish the task of reading the daily portion.

This rumination makes the reading of the entire Bible in one year something to be desired, even though we may be doing Bible studies through specific books at the same time.

So-- there is my 'why'. I have spent the last year alternately remembering and forgetting it. When I forget, I slip into my habit of squeezing the last drop of meaning I can possibly find out of my daily Bible reading as I read-- a valuable practice, but not suited to this endeavor, as it makes the daily reading a large chunk of my morning. When I remember the 'why', I am content to leave the pursuit of deeper understanding for later, which causes me to think on it as I have spare moments in my day.

After failing three times, it is clear to see that I am not going to be able to do this the "normal" way. Obviously, I need to retrain myself to relax into my daily Bible reading. This is going to take some time. Besides, I do not want to start over from Genesis when I have gotten almost halfway through the OT this past year! The goal is to read the Bible *through*, as well as read it through in one year. I need to solidify the daily habit of reading 1/365 of it each day, even if I am not beginning at the beginning on January 1.

Here is the how: I will begin where I am in 1 Kings in the OT (and the epistles in the NT) and read my daily portion, praying that I will remember to relax and not be so demanding of this particular reading. That sounds weird, because we ought to be demanding readers, but I really think my analytical tendencies are messing me up where this goal is concerned. I think I just need to read it.

I have my progress listed in my sidebar, because this helps me, and I will continue to add to it as I go. When I get to the end, I will start over. Let's see how that works.

Today* I will spend time reading Acts 1-10 in the NT and Psalms 73-133 in order to line everything up with June 15th (the day I have gotten to in the OT) of my Daily Bible, which is portioned into daily readings of the OT, NT, Psalms and Proverbs. Then I will use the divisions given in that book to portion out my daily readings.

*Okay, I just realized that is a *lot* of reading in one day! I'm still going to attempt it, but if I can't make it through today, I will divvy up the Psalms into tomorrow and Sunday.

Later thought: How much of my neglect of this goal is due to my fear of not understanding? I frequently read things in the Bible that I do not understand. Reading scripture provokes me to wonder, and sometimes I feel threatened by it. I want to know, not wonder! But, as Miss Mason said, "What a barren and dry land should we dwell in if our spirits were narrowed to the limits of that which we can comprehend!" And--

...without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

I Timothy 3:16


Lynn B. said...

Katie, I look at this sort of Bible reading as simply "keeping myself ready to hear God and receive preaching." Maybe thinking of it that way will prove helpful to you? Reading the Bible in a narrative manner serves a worthy purpose in that it keeps us familiar.

Plus, besides keeping us from being puzzled in the pew so often, I find it's also pretty important when live around people who mention stuff like shibboleths and "altars named Ed" in the same unassuming manner that other people talk about, oh say, the weather or good enchiladas.


Reading it through in a year is always a terrific goal, but like you, I question whether it's always a *reasonable* goal for a homeschooling mother. There have been crazy seasons of mothering when I have known that, for me, it was not reasonable-- all of us have the occasional "Psalms year." And I feel we should never make our Bible reading goals such a burden that it ceases to be something we come to as a blessing.

I'm still trying to decide what to do this year. I always feel like I ought to set out to read the whole Bible through, and adjust my goals as the year unfolds, if necessary.

Whatever we choose to do, one thing is certain -- God will more than match our efforts.

Katie said...

I had to look up the 'altars named Ed' reference, lol. I had no idea.

Thanks for the additional thought on how to look at bible reading. One thing I do not want is for daily reading to become a burden, and I think I have a tendency to make it that.

Emily said...

Reading through the Bible in its entirety in a determined fashion is something I have done only twice. I'm like you - I analyze, look up the cross references, get into the footnotes, etc. - so the daily reading would take me forever. What I think I am going to try this year is to get off the "read-the-Bible-in-a-year" mindset, set the timer for a specific amount of time, then have at it. If I get sidetracked, so be it. If it takes me three years, so be it. May the Lord guide you!

Amy in Peru said...

You put into words exactly my experience with attempting to read through the whole Bible in a year. EXACTLY. I've asked myself the same questions, felt the same guilt, and have come to the SAME conclusions! :) And yet, I think it is totally worthwhile to read, reread and read innumerable times again, every part of Scripture!

I on the other hand have given up on the goal of reading through just to get through in a year. But your post made me think something I've never thought before... what if I read through the whole book in one sitting (one day) and then was able on the subsequent days to spend more time really looking further into the divided readings, in the same book, doing the analyzing, word studies, etc that I LOVE... I think that could work for me. It would just be a matter of working out a schedule in accordance with the size of books and such. hmmm. sounds interesting. thanks for posting about this, it got my mind working :)

amy in peru

Anonymous said...

Readig the Bible through each year is a worthy goal. However, developing a habit of daily Bible reading is a far greater benefit than reading for the sake of meeting a timeline goal. And in either case reading with understanding should be a principle concern. Paul wrote, "I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue." I think the same principle of understanding applies when reading God's word. I am not suggesting it is unimportant for us all to read and memorize the scriptures, especially so for youngsters. This practice equips us for meditation and is a great help for Bible study. However, I am amazed how often I meet people who can quote a great many scriptures but don't know much Bible. A better goal than reading the Bible thru in one year is daily reading of the scriptures with the goal of getting understanding. Doing so gives glory to God and edifies us.