Friday, October 15, 2010

Reading the Bible in a year

In my Bible reading plan, it's July.

I am so conflicted about my Bible reading.  Everywhere I go, people are telling me I must, and my children must, read the Bible all the way through every year.  I am told of the great spiritual benefits of doing this.  I don't disagree with that, exactly.  But when I try to do it, it feels like cramming.  I'm just reading as quickly as I can to check off the day, but not getting anything out of it.

But last December I decided to at least do my reading systematically, if not yearly.  I found a chronological reading plan.  I thought about it and prayed about it and came to the conclusion that I'd read daily, but wouldn't try to finish in the year.  I'd take my time and read deeply, but not quickly.  (I am sure some people can read both deeply and quickly, so if you are a yearly Bible reader don't think I'm telling you you're not doing it right.)  But as we approach the year's end, I am starting to feel the guilt come back. I find myself trying to catch up, even though it's impossible at this point, unless I go away to a hotel for a weekend to read.

And so I think of Janet.  She is a dear woman who gave me a lot of encouragement (and, yes, guilt, though I don't think she meant to) about reading the whole Bible every year.  She was not proud, but she frequently ticked off the years she'd been doing it herself. Last time I talked to her, I think it was 26.  26 times through the Bible in 26 years!  Wow. That's impressive.

And then I thought about Janet's age. She must have been in her mid-70s when I knew her.  Let's say, 75.  That means she started her reading habit when she was 49, thereabouts.  I am pretty sure her kids were up and out then.  I am pretty sure she was not homeschooling then.  I don't doubt that she was busy, but I think she was out of the thick of childrearing by that time.  (Some of us, at 49 and above, are still in the thick of it.) 

So maybe I'm just rationalizing my own lack, but I am resolving to put this guilt aside once and for all. I'm going to keep following my Bible reading plan, but not worry about the date.  Some days I might read many chapters; some only a portion of one.  I'm reading Isaiah now, and taking it slow.  I have a commentary I'm reading along with it so that slows me down, but adds much to my reading.  I have a commentary on Esther that I'll pull out when that time comes.

My kids will continue their slow pace in their own Bible studies, which, in effect, I'm doing with them, since we discuss everything.  

Do you read the Bible in full every year?   Do you follow a plan, or just read from start to finish?  Or are you a slacker like me who can't seem to manage it?   Tell me about it. 


wdworkman said...

I have more unfinished reading plans than I can count, but I feel like I've learned something from each of them - even if it was a brief period of time. I agree with your thoughts. My time of uninterrupted days of reading will come someday. If I give up some of my hectic family life to gain more reading time, I may be missing out on some of the gifts that God is giving me now.
Janet W

wayside wanderer said...

I have been working my way through the Bible for a couple of years now. I have a chart that I color in so I am free to jump around if I want.

Several years ago I bought a One Year Bible and was going to read it through...and I think it was July when I stopped. The bad thing about that sort of Bible for me is that I never had no idea of where I really was in the Bible. They rearrange the Bible so when something I read would come back to me later I had the most difficult time figuring out where in the Bible I had read it.

There are so many things to feel guilty about in this world, but I think any sort of time spent with God pleases him.

Sandy said...

I appreciate the honesty of this post; it deserves more than a blog comment. I'll just say that reading through the Bible in any amount of time is not the Bible. I'm not saying it isn't a good thing to do, I'm just saying there's no reason to do it unless God is telling you to.

christinethecurious said...

I get my Bible portion in my reader from the ESV online. In the past I used a through the Bible in one year actual book that had been my Dad's, with his notes in it - including the cryptic, "meeting day" written on the date that he died, after a week's comma.

I read the day's portion most days after breakfast, but if I don't, I mark it as read and keep going.

some years I read just the NT, or the psalms or proverbs. I probably skip about 1/4 of the readings, but I mostly keep going.

I need to be in the word, but I don't need to be fretted by a sluggish book mark! Its more like sit ups most of the time, but the general familiarity with scripture is lovely.


Dusti said...

i'll be honest here....i'm a slacker. i'd like to say i get up early every morning and read the Bible, but I don't. i agree with what you said about just reading it every day - not worrying about how much just picking it up and spending time each day. i'll work on that. without guilt. :) i'll try. it's not easy. :)

DADvocate said...

I'm a slacker. I have read the Bible all the way through and did it in less than a year when I did. I don't think compulsively reading the Bible is that important. Understanding what it means to be a Christian and acting accordingly means much more to me. My reading now follows those lines.

BTW - I believe guilt is a poor motivation for reading anything. Read out of a desire and thirst for knowledge, insight and understanding.

Anonymous said...

Should you read your Bible? Yes. Should you read it all in one year? Not necessarily. I am very wary of people telling me what I should do, even good Christian people. If it feels like cramming, it is probably not the best way for you to do it. It may be fine for someone else. I would tell these people something like, "Oh, yes, I read my Bible. But I enjoy spedning time on just one verse (or chapter). There is so much good content there, I can;t breeze through it."

Marbel said...

Hey! Thanks for all the great comments! Love hearing what people have to say.

I think slow but systematic is the best way for me. Hm, maybe I should incorporate "slow but systematic" into all areas of my life...

christinethecurious said...

I was thinking about this post and my comment again this morning - I remember coming home from college and telling my Dad how I'd gotten so lax this semester: instead of getting up early and reading my Bible, I was tucking it in whenever I could each day. Dad said," The only important thing you just said was that you are reading your Bible every day."

Sometimes the folks who are good at regularity forget that the point about being in the word regularly is to be in the word not necessarily to be more regular.