Five Ways to Suck at Reading Your Bible

Thomas Edison QuoteA familiar line from Thomas Edison frames failure with unfamiliar brightness: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

It embarrasses me that it has taken me years to establish a regular Scripture reading habit. But in the spirit of Edison, here are five surefire ways to failure that I discovered along the way:

1) Don’t Have a Plan.
The amount of mental energy saved by following an already-established reading schedule is unreal. Such a plan allows me to quickly jump in to the task at hand without clearing any additional hurdles on a daily basis because if I have to clear additional hurdles on a daily basis, I’m not even stepping on the track. If you are in desperate need of a varied and reasonably paced reading schedule, here is the one I use; it has me on course to read my Bible through every three years. If you want to avoid reading your Bible, plan to figure out what to read each day when the moment arrives–that failure method is foolproof.

2) Do It at Bedtime.
“I am not a morning person.” That was my chorus for many years, particularly during my student days, when late-night studying was a regular rhythm. Then my conscience would awake at bedtime to remind me of my missed Bible readings. Additionally, the idea of falling asleep with Scripture as my final thoughts of the day was somewhat romantic. The less romantic reality was that I typically failed to get through a paragraph before my eyes closed up shop. We can argue about being a morning person or not in another post. For the moment, consider every option better than reading in a horizontal position at the end of a hard day: while you eat breakfast, on the bus to school, during morning coffee break, as you grab lunch, first thing after you tuck in your kids. If deep down, you really don’t want to read your Bible, do it at bedtime. And you won’t!

3) Seek the Check Mark.
How much pleasure do you derive from checking off at item on your to do list? Have you ever done something that wasn’t on your list, and then written it on your list after the fact so that you could place a check mark beside it? I know someone who has. However, all the check marks in the world can actually work to undercut the value of a solid Bible reading habit. You might getting to it, but is it getting to you? Tell your duty-driven self to submit itself before the Scriptures being reading. View the exercise as a time dedicated to God getting His hands on your heart, rather than you getting your hands on His book. But if the only mark you want left from the habit is checks upon your list, then treat Bible-reading as something akin to washing the floor or changing the oil. You will get exactly what you are seeking–the thrill of inking a check mark.

4) Settle for Silence.
Silent reading engages the eyes and the mind. And sometimes it fails to do even that much. At times, I’ve added my ears to the game by listening to an audio Bible. Max McLean is among my favourite readers–he can be heard on BibleGateway’s website, reading the ESV along with a few other translations. However, after a time, I realized that I was still under-engaged in the act. His soothing voice had become background noise as my eyes grazed over the text. Next move? Read it aloud with my own voice. This now engages my eyes, ears, and mouth. And it is that final component–my mouth determining the tone and emphasis to read with as I press the text through my lips–that engages my mind on a deeper level still. But if you want to struggle to interact with the text, or even to remember it an hour later, stay in the silence.

5) Keep Moving Regardless.If you have a plan in action (see #1), and you enjoy checking it off each day (see #3), then one corrective measure may be needed. In “Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ,” Madame Guyon likened Scripture-reading to a bee buzzing over flowers. At some point, he finds what he’s looking for and stops to plunge himself into it. If your Scripture habit is driven by a recognized need to connect with God and hear from Him, then pay more attention to your reading than to your reading list. What if the second verse of your chapter is where your heart needs to linger? Guyon would say, “Scrap the rest of your plan, and linger.” To keep reading is to risk losing the glorious revelation that most of bemoan as lacking in our Bible readings. Don’t allow your sense of duty (I should really finish the whole passage) to undercut the entire purpose of your habit: To connect with God. If God shows up ready to teach, clear your schedule… starting with the rest of today’s reading. Or to minimize the impact of your Scripture habits, keep trucking blindly.

YOUR TURN: What about you? Have you discovered any other paths to surefire failure in your Bible readings?  Your input makes this post better!

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