Wednesday, July 17, 2013

in which i admit to being afraid of the Bible

I, little miss pastor's wife, have a confession to make. I do not particularly enjoy reading the Bible. In fact, I would say I'm sometimes downright afraid of it. Suspicious, even; the way you are suspicious around a favorite male cousin you haven't seen in a year whose voice is now several octaves deeper.

There are many times when I'm splashing around the Old Testament when my heart suddenly begins beating in a wild flurry and I beg, "God, surely you didn't mean that. Where is the Greek translation for this paragraph, anyway?" I wish I had a wise, sympathetic old theologian beside me at all times (preferably a universalist because they seem so darn cheery), explaining away all the scary, paradoxical, mind-blowing passages.

Now, I know. There is an unfathomable, poetic beauty in serving a God we can't explain or fully understand. Of course. I love to ponder the mystery of God in relation to time and space, I love that he is so infinitely beyond our imagination.

What bothers me is the nitty gritty (did you say that in Nacho Libre's voice? Because I did.) You know, little things like genocide. God sending an evil spirit upon Saul (what?) Just to name a few. Is it any surprise that most devotionals only cover a portion of the Bible, only touch on the parts that, even if they don't make us feel good, at least make sense? I am constantly brought back to the same questions: Is any of this real? Is this supposed be taken literally? Is this really good news? So I sigh, flip open my pink devotional, and pretend that everything is rosy and can fit snugly into my allotted ten minutes.

And yet. And yet I know I cannot follow Jesus closely with this attitude of fear and distrust. I can't live the rest of my Christian life off of fuzzy devotions. It's time for this girl to take a deep, shaky breath and dive in. I cringe to imagine God, at the end of my life, asking me why I never used this great love of books he's given me to read the one that mattered most.

So as I pore through even the most disturbing passages, I want to read them through love-tinted glasses. Because, deep down, I believe that everything God says and does is love inspired. And while I want to be influenced by God's voice alone, I know I'm going to need some help learning how to actually read the Bible. Because unlike what I was taught in Sunday school, it is not actually all meant to be read the same way.

I'm starting with Eat This Book by Eugene Peterson (who wrote/translated The Message.) And we'll see where I go from there. I don't have a definitive start date because, frankly, I'm burnt out from goals and the like. And I don't want this to be another source of guilt and "how far have I gotten today?" It's not about that right now. I may be starting tomorrow or next week or Thanksgiving--I have no idea and I really don't care. What I care about is being brave and learning to really, really trust God, that he is who he says he is. I've just gotta know.

The music was playing softly behind me as I typed this post, so soft I could barely hear it over the rumbling thunder outside. And as soon as I finished typing, for whatever reason, I reached out and turned up the volume. It was not set to Christian station but, of all things, a reggae singer was crooning, "Don't worry, child, God is so good." Over and over and over.

Don't worry, child, God is so good. 


  1. I could really have written this post myself (I mean, minus the pastor's wife thing). It was originally my goal to read the entire Bible in a year, but I just don't see that happening. And my handy little reminder app on my phone just makes me sad every day when I go "Ugh, right now?" Prayers for us both as we try to hear the Lord's message to us!

  2. I think the book of Leviticus was specially designed to drive everyone crazy. Also, I don't tend to think of the Bible as literal. I mean, parents tell their children about the boogie man so that they won't get in cars with strange people - it's a metaphor for a really good life lesson, but not actually factual. Does that make sense? The boogie man doesn't exist, but people who prey on innocent children do.

    Hm... I guess another way of thinking about the OT could be the same way you might think about the parables of the NT. I mean, those are factual stories, but they are the truth. And they were designed to carry a message.

    Also... it's my understanding that the people in the OT were accustomed to a God that punished, so it was expected (?) in some ways. Deserved? I don't know, I wasn't there. But certainly the people of that time period believed that they had to do a certain thing, live a certain way, or they would be punished.

    Well, that's my 2 cents on this early Wednesday morning... =)

  3. God is so good.
    It is also good to wrestle with this, to seek our answers, and to be real with where you are spiritually.
    I'm here too.
    KNOWING i should be dusting off my Bible and getting to the heart of it; but it's hard.
    It's meant to be hard.
    Faith is hard.
    {even though i sometimes don't like hearing that}
    I definitely take the Bible literally...i mean it's inspired by God, breathed by His Words, why would he use a constant story to base the beauty of salvation...why would salvation only be a story instead of the Truth we claim it to be?
    Reading the Old Testament is hard for me as well...but praise God there is the new testament.
    It evens it out, it shows that the OT was setting up for the NT. That the physical sacrifice restrictions that were so demanding were so utterly met and shattered with Christ in the NT.
    In it's own way, the OT is beautiful...devastating and challenging, but beautiful. I see where it can represent who we are without Christ, how littler we are, how desperate we are to fill our life with useless things and idols, and how we are continually seeking out something bigger than ourselves.

    ...and that was a novel of a comment.
    All of that to say, i loved this post. It was genuine and i needed to read it; so thank you for posting it.

  4. simply put... i love this! my heart in a nutshell!

    xoxo kerri

  5. "love-tinted glasses" <---- i love that.

    Girl. I was a Bible major in college and went to seminary, and I can relate to what you say. In fact I'd say it's GOOD to wrestle with these different images of God we see in Scripture. I really struggle with some of the anger and destruction seen in the OT. I've given myself the freedom to not understand those things, but to still accept God as loving and good. It's a weird tension, but I think it is so good that you are actually giving it thought!

  6. You're so brave and honest to share this! Truth be told, I've always struggled with diving into the Bible as well. I didn't read the entire thing until it was assigned in Bible college (which ruined it in other ways, I think). I'm interested to hear what you think of Eat This Book. I read a few chapters for class, but I'm not a huge Eugene Peterson fan, so I never went back and finished. If it gets your approval, I might give it another chance.

    Strangely enough, the parts of the Bible I struggle with are exactly the opposite from yours! Whenever I read the "good" parts, I have this overwhelming sense of guilt that I don't live my life in a way that aligns with what God wants. And I kind of have a soft spot for the bizarre, dark stories (Elisha and the bear, anyone? 2 Kings 2:23-25). I think they remind me of the original Grimm fairy tales, which I've always loved.

  7. I admire you for your courage to share. We all have questions regarding the bible. Even my pastor told me he has thing that he wasn't sure about. However he said in prayer he took those thing to God for clarity and received answers. There are parts of the bible that make God look like he hated the people, but honestly they drove him absolutely bonkers. He did so much for the people and was so connected to them, speaking, showing them miraculous signs and they still didn't get it.

    I have so many questions on what is literal and what is not but I resigned to see it as literal because that's the whole meaning behind faith. Sure their are thing I still can fathom but we can never fully understand the true majesty that is God.

    I just wanted to say your feelings are normal. And ever Christian has them, I will be praying that you push throug. God will answer all your questions no matter how crazy they seem just ask him.

    The Word of A Nerd

  8. I've struggled with these same issues time and time again. How can God be good and loving when OT events were commanded by Him or even done by Him. I've had so many people try to explain it to me and it just makes me more confused, sad, and - like you - scared. Once I got to the understanding that I don't get it but that someone God was being good and loving through those acts it is so much easier. It's not easy and there are times I still freak out over it but I know in my heart that it's truth.

  9. Yes, you said it. The Old Testament and all those things that just seem so.....UN-loving. Things I wouldn't want to tell my kids about. But we NEED to know God and He promises to lead us into the truth. He is so good. So beautiful. :)

  10. I feel the same way quite often. Things that just don't add up in my mind. Sometimes I just have to remind myself that we are human, and we are reading the Bible from our limited little perspective.

    My friend Luke who is in seminary at Princeton wrote this post a few weeks ago concerning the differences people find between the OT & NT God:

    It really helped me see it in a new way, and I'd love to listen to this Harvard professor's lecture for further clarification. Not sure if it will be helpful for you or not, just thought I'd share in case!

    1. Ps. ^^He admits he's being a bit preachy so ignore the tone haha. I think what struck me most is that the God we read in the OT abhors evil, and therefore, punishes it accordingly, from a place of love of justice, as He is everything good. But when Jesus comes along, God no longer needs to punish us for the evil we do, because Jesus covered us all; He's the bridge we didn't have in the OT. Don't know if that makes sense, I'm tired and rambling now and you're probably wishing I'd just shut up ;)

  11. Yes, yes, yes. I just love this post. I've had many of the same thoughts and haven't grappled my way through them yet.

  12. I have also struggled with the Bible at times, esp the OT, but reading through the OT has given me a deeper understanding of what Jesus has done for us, and how easily corrupted we are as people without him (ie, we are not good in ourselves). Sadly, too much of the church has stopped talking about God as a just and righteous God, leaving a lot of Christians with the understanding that they can live however they want. Good luck with your Bible reading journey!

  13. Beautifully written. Thank you for your honesty. Hope all is well!

  14. This is called cognitive dissonance. Try to resist the temptation to cling to your current paradigm, at the expense of your own conscience and better judgment.

  15. I have huge battles with anxiety when I try to read the Bible... Came across your blog as I'm searching for things on Google in the hope of getting past it...

  16. I have huge battles with anxiety when I try to read the Bible... Came across your blog as I'm searching for things on Google in the hope of getting past it...


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