I remember the very first time I ever opened a Bible. I even know the date: August 19, 1972. I remember it because it was the day before I decided to follow Jesus. I took the Bible that I never intended to open with me to this beautiful, yet rustic spot overlooking a canyon where I used to get stoned. A Jesus Freak hippie had given the Bible to me and suggested I read the Gospel of John. Only this day I skipped the stoned part and read instead.
I can’t explain it, but it was the first time I had been engulfed like that in a story. I wasn’t just interested or intrigued. I was somehow inside the narrative – like I was there observing Jesus, who was reaching out to me through his words on the pages of this book. I couldn’t put it down or deny its draw on me. He knew me, and somehow I felt I kind of knew him too – in a distant sort of way. His familiarity with me wasn’t distant at all though as I could picture him looking right through me, identifying in me the real parts, and appealing to them. The next day I decided I had to know the Author and main character of this story in as personal a way as he knew me.
Do you remember how exciting the Bible was to you when you starting reading it with spiritual eyes recently opened? Even if you grew up in Church, hearing all the stories in sermons and Sunday School, there must’ve been a first time it became God’s love letter to you! Every story, every Psalm, each chapter and verse had something to say directly to you. You couldn’t hardly have a problem that each day’s reading didn’t address. God was speaking right to you and telling you about himself and about yourself – giving you marching orders for the day. The Bible was a treasure trove that you could open a little at a time everyday and enjoy its riches. It was a living thing, better than any book you’d ever read before.
So, since then, what happened to it? How did the Bible become so boring over time? When you read it now is it just another dull part of a dry devotional time? You’ve read all this before. It’s like visiting the Grand Canyon for the five hundredth time. You’ve seen it and have terabytes of photos to prove it. What was once spectacular is now tedious.
And when you hear your pastor teach from the Bible it’s not like it was when you first came to Jesus. At first every time s/he gave a message you were pretty sure s/he had interviewed your closest friends about what you were going through at the time and crafted the sermon with only you in mind. Now that you’ve logged ten thousand sermons they all pretty much sound the same and if you hear one more message on David and Goliath you’re considering taking a hostage right out of the service! A deacon or an usher would suffice.
So, how did it get so tedious? Is it me? The Word hasn’t changed, so it must be me – right? Right. But take heart, even the most chronic case of “Boring Bible Syndrome” is treatable. In the next few posts are some suggested remedies.
The first one has to do with how we see what we see.
Read it with fresh eyes
“We need an aperture-opening experience, to be plucked out of the weeds of our narrow, self-centered faith and shot up fifty thousand feet so we can look down at what it means to be a follower of Jesus.” Ian Cron
In the Parable of Sower, which is more about the quality of soils than seed sowing, the first and most unreceptive soil is what he calls, the “path.” What is a path, but ground that has been walked on so much that the topsoil is impenetrable and incapable of receiving the seed? I think it refers to the person who, through repeated exposure to the truth and consistent rejection of it, no longer has the capacity to receive it – that is, unless s/he gets a plow out and breaks up the “fallow ground” of their heart.
Those of us who have heard and read the Bible all our lives can get to feeling like we’ve heard it all. It’s like when a radio station plays the same songs over and over, it’s easy to tune it out and the music becomes white noise in the background. (Someone said to me recently that my audio teaching serves as “white noise” for them while they fall asleep. I think they meant it as a compliment, so I just smiled and replied, “Thanks?”)
Sometimes when I’m teaching on a widely familiar passage, before even beginning to make my comments I can see people’s eyes glaze over with their Bibles on their laps (or on their “apps” as the case may be) with that look that says, “This is a rerun. I know what he’s gonna say about this passage. At best, I need to be reminded of…” They seem to have no expectation of hearing anything new from something old. They assume there’s only one way to see and apply each biblical passage and have no expectation that the Spirit might say something new to them through it. They have no sense of the Spirit of revelation.
After a message on John 3 they’ll say, “I’m sure glad I’m born again!” They had the right passage, and maybe they needed to be reminded of the glory of salvation, but the message on the preacher’s heart was on the “unpredictable wind of the Spirit.” Because it was such familiar territory they only heard select words in sentences that strung together to communicate what they expected to hear. I think this must happen when we read well-worn parts of our Bibles. It’s like we know what we know and we’ll know no more.
We need fresh eyes to see what the Word says, what it means, and what we have to do about it. Brian McLaren said, “We need to stop approaching the Bible only to confirm what we already know, and instead come at it like children, beginners – with a second innocence.
NEXT: Read it for marching orders and Read it for how to behave…
How have you combatted the boredom factor in reading the Word?