Confession: I’m one of those Christians who’s really bad about disciplining himself to read scripture daily, even regularly. I’m also one of those people who’s like, “Man, I should really do that.” I even feel really bad about it. In fact, I regularly want to read it, but don’t. I always end up thinking, “Am I supposed to read this part or something else?” or, “I’m so tired, and I don’t want to be disrespectful to the word by reading it and not really being mentally ready for it, and I also kind of really just want to sleep right now.”
This is normally the part where I see every guilt-tripping legalist preacher I’ve ever sat under thunder through my brain about how my zeal for Christ isn’t really real. I can admit that it isn’t what it should be, but it’s for a lot of reasons, bigger reasons besides the fact that I don’t read scripture nearly enough. In fact, I think not reading scripture is actually just a symptom. Remember: I do want to read it. So if I want to read it but don’t, something else is at play. If I can’t breathe through my nose because I have a cold, it isn’t my heart that’s my problem. It’s my body and its reaction to the presence of an invader.
People lend themselves to different modes of learning. I’m kind of a mixed bag in that sense. I can learn nearly as easily by reading as by seeing, or by hearing, or by trial-and-error. It’s not that—not for me, at least. I think it’s more likely that there is some sort of barrier between me and my ability to keep my head on straight when I read certain kinds of things.
I don’t know if these people really exist or not, but there’s this legend that some people will just read a dictionary for no reason other than to learn new words. That sounds really weird to me. When I think of something enjoyable to do, as much as I love words, my first thought when I want to learn new ones isn’t, “Hey, let me look at this gargantuan list of things people have said since the dawn of the English language! Maybe I’ll find something I like!” Nonetheless, I’m glad dictionaries exist, especially ones that involve literally just typing a word you don’t know into the Google search bar.
Dictionaries exist for a reason: a lot of things have been said over a really long time. Same for encyclopedias: a lot of things have been done. I think a huge thing that makes me avoid the Bible is that it’s organized like a dictionary (no offense to the people who did it; I’m not trying to say that you’re boring). I know that there’s a reason they’re there. In fact, I’m glad they’re there. They make finding, recalling, and memorizing things easier, as well as denoting particularly interesting or table-turning events in Judeo-Christian (and really human) history.
But it’s not just that. These are all triggers for the symptom of not reading the word, but still not the cause. If the symptom is not reading the word, and the triggers are things that get in the way, the true cause has to be more heartfelt than that. The cause has to be personal.
In our most basic understanding of what the scripture really is, it’s a book full of stories.
Songbooks (my favorite, but I’m biased). History books. Legal books. Family trees and biographies. In the case of the new testament, journalism and letters.
Communication within and across generations.
I actually really like books. I have bad book reading habits of late, which I’m working on. Anyone who has really read a book understands that books are just that: communication, but not just any kind. Books develop relationships between people who cannot see each other.
I have a friend who I originally connected with because of my blog. We emailed for a while, followed each other’s blog posts, and stayed in touch on social media. To this day, the closest I’ve been to actually meeting her was FaceTiming her twice. But despite the fact that we’ve never met in the flesh, there are few people I’ve felt like I’ve connected with as well, whom I have met in person. Crazy right? That goes to show that the sum of a relationship isn’t how much you see someone but how much you connect with someone through whatever circumstances you have.
God may not speak audibly to everyone, or even a lot of people, or every day. I don’t know. I’m not Him. I don’t know His itinerary. What I do know is that since the dawn of time, He has made every effort to stay in touch with us through every means He has (and He has literally every means), even when we don’t. He was “the Word at the beginning” (and now half of you are weeping because “What a Beautiful Name” by Hillsong is playing in your head). He spoke through and to His creation. He even spoke to the next generation, the first generation to not know what the world looked like before we fell. He spoke to His prophets. He spoke through signs. He spoke through the law. And in these last days, He has spoken grace through the revelation of Jesus Christ (Heb. 1).
And He’s not done speaking.
He still speaks when people worship.
When we read the scriptures that have told of Him through the generations.
When people pray.
When people love the world as Christ loved the world.
When He does miraculous things.
When He does timely things.
When everything is awful and you only have His strength to run on.
When cancer comes.
When breakups come.
When your dreams crash.
When your business goes belly-up.
When the house burns down.
His love always prevails, and it can never be silenced.
If His love can never be silenced, then part of me wants to say that I don’t need to read the Bible because He will find a way to speak to me anyway. And that’s true. He will. He can, and He will. He is that faithful.
The thing about scripture is that it, like anything else that has been written, is an account of what has been done, and a message that is traveling through time. And you know what? Our Father has already said a lot, and He has been saying it from the beginning.
So if He has been talking from the beginning, why are we so often so afraid of listening from the beginning? If He has already spoken so much, why do we think we need something else? If He has already spoken the greatest love we could ever know, why are we so afraid to abide in it?
I like to call myself a big picture, long-view, dreamer kind of guy. Yet I easily get caught stumbling over little rocks in the road. Or big rocks in the road. I don’t slow down. I don’t stay aware. I don’t fix my eyes on His constancy. His love is constant; it’s our circumstances that are constantly failing us.
Then I get in these moods where I say to myself, “Well, I know this truth or that verse. I know it already. I don’t need to remind myself.” But why is it that after I say that to myself my mood erodes and I’m falling down into the mud with the pigs again? It’s because I’m just a prodigal. It’s because I’m so focused on my own circumstances that I fail to see that my Father has always been there: it was me that moved. If truth is the foundation our homes are built on, but I run away from home, I’ve run away from truth. I’ve run away from shelter to be rained on and used up in a city that doesn’t care like my Father cares.
It’s my circumstances, not my Father, that fails me. So I need to read the stories He’s been telling me since I was a baby. About how He made us all good. About how He came for me when I ran. About how He slayed giants when no one else could. About how He calmed storms and turned water into solid ground.
He resurrected my soul, and millions of other souls. How about I spend some time remembering that? How about I make that recurring and constant victory the most important part of my day?
How about I let my Papa tell me a story?
I’m ironically writing this in coffee shop, about to read my Bible for the first time in entirely too long. And I’m not even doing it just to be the hipster, worship-leading college kid I pretty much am but don’t want to admit I’m kind of a hipster. Lately, I’ve been reading Goliath Must Fall and The Comeback, both by Louie Giglio. Most of that reading has been done in coffee shops.
There’s just something about the vibe to me. I mean, I love coffee and the whole local shop scene, but it’s more than that. When I think of a coffee shop, I don’t just think of a shop full of coffee. I think of a place to go to meet and be with people.
Deep conversations with best friends.
Musical and lyrical collaborations.
Local bands and artists and craftspeople.
Looking like you’re on drugs because you definitely shouldn’t have ordered French press.
Just good company.
The next episodes in the stories of the lives of the ones I love.
To me, coffee shops are a place for stories to be told and memories to be made. I’ve spent the last few weeks driving 60 miles to and 60 miles back from Owensboro, KY to grab a Raspberry Love (mocha + white chocolate + raspberry + all the feels) from The Crème, walk out to Smothers Park to listen to live music, watch the sun set over the Ohio River, read some books about slaying giants, and crying out to Jesus like I have never done it before… and remembering that a long time ago, when I first met my Maker and my Savior, I wanted Him to tell me all about Himself. And He did it.
Life happened, and we lost touch. No, I lost touch. But He never stopped telling me He would be there for me when I changed my mind and wanted to talk. He hated to see me go. He hated to see me listening to the lies people told me rather than the truth He knew.
So here we are, in Spencer’s Coffee in Bowling Green, and we have a lot of catching up to do.