I don't read my Bible.

Every once in a while something will intrigue me and I'll pull it out and read something, but I don't read it regularly.

Think what you will, say what you will, and then you try being this vulnerable on the internet.

Most of my life I've felt guilty about how little I read my Bible. I'd start "reading plans" and I don't think I ever finished one. I'd make really intentional goals every January which didn't make it past February. I'd cry, beat my chest and promise to do better tomorrow. I never did.

One January, when I was younger than 6, my parents bought us those little pocket calendars, you know with kittens and verses under the plastic covers? They said we'd get a dollar every month for every day we read our Bibles.

Mmmmmm. Money. Incentive.

All we had to do was put an X on every day we'd read our Bibles in the little calendar and we'd get a dollar for each day. I think my bigger brothers had to read at least a whole chapter for it to count and my goal was smaller... but I don't remember the details. All I remember is...

I cheated.

I got to the end of January and there weren't as many Xs as I wanted dollars. So I added a few. And I did it every month. No one ever found out and I don't think I ever told anyone until my brother, Phil, and I were discussing religious topics within the last year. He'd almost completely forgotten about the year Bible reading challenge, but the images are vividly sealed onto my brain. My brother laughed at me a little. I guess that's what guilt does to you.

The worst part about the story was at the end of the year. We all got to open one present Christmas Eve and at the end of us all opening our one present my dad got a twinkle in his eye and pulled out another big box and started to tell a story. He talked about how proud he was of my oldest brother. How he'd taken on the challenge to read his Bible and really run with it. Andrew had read his Bible almost every single day for the whole year and because he'd stayed so faithful, my parents got him a special gift.

Andrew tore into a brand new CD playing boombox. Yeah, it was the early 90s and it was the raddest gift ever.

My brother, Phil, doesn't remember this moment at all. And I still remember sitting there in terror, wondering if my dad was going to make me pay for my cheating. Wondering if he knew. Wondering if the next gift was going to be a paddle to my backside, maybe not even for cheating, but just for not reading as much as I should have. One gets rewarded the other gets punished, right? I tried to get the fire out of my cheeks by distracting myself with my Christmas present. He couldn't possibly know I'd cheated. He's not mad at me, he's just proud of Andrew. I remember feeling the guilt every time I saw his boombox and I was sure my dad would never see me as highly as he did Andrew.

It's the same guilt I lived with every time I set a new Bible reading goal. I'm going to read the whole thing in a year. Scratch that, I'm just going to read the whole thing. Ooooor, maybe I'll just read the whole New Testament and the Psalms in a year. The Gospels are great, I'll just read the Gospels. 

Guilt
Shame
Fear someone would find me out

Maybe they'd know I'm not a real Christian.

Photo by PicJumbo

Photo by PicJumbo

I've changed my perspective though, from what I do and don't do, to what God did and my value to Him (more on this next time.) Since then my life hasn't been an endless cycle of:

Guilt, shame, fear of being found out. 

I make mistakes still, and sometimes people see it. Then I breathe a sigh of relief and say, "I'm so glad you know I mistakes, maybe we can both be imperfect together?"

Every time I fall, it gives me the chance to go deeper with others.

I think guilt is still a thing, since we're human and mess up every once and again (everyday.) But now guilt is about my actions--which I can change--and not about who I am. Now, the cycle looks more like this:

Guilt
Acceptance
Love
Being Known

Four years ago when I started down this road people told me Grace would send me straight off the deep end and I'd leave my husband and my family and say it was what God wanted for me because: GRACE.

But here I am 4 years later, with no desire but to pursue the love I've been given. I think my husband would say I'm more the wife he's always wanted. Maybe because it goes both ways. God loved me and so I love Him. I accept myself and so I can accept James. I give grace to myself and so I give grace to others. (Unless you call yourself a Christian, but you're a judgmental SOB. Then you get no grace... I'm still working there.)

I went on a women's retreat about this time last year. We'd finally found a church which seemed to fully accept the Gospel of Grace. Most of them had even been living it longer than I have, so in a small group discussion I braved a question.

"I'm just now starting to really understand how this Grace thing works, but I have a problem: I can't pick up my Bible without feeling shame. For 25 years it didn't matter how much I read my Bible, it never seemed like it was "good enough". It's always been a weight on my shoulders and not something I have ever been able to get to from a place of rest. How do I approach having a daily time with God with Grace and not be stuck under the shame?"

A "seasoned church lady" (that means she's a lot older than I am) was the first to speak up. She said, "25 years, girl? I wish I'd found Grace so young. I lived with that guilt for over 40 years. My only answer is, I don't read my Bible anymore. I rest in God's presence and talk to Him when I can without guilt, but I still can't do 'daily time with God' either. And I've decided that's ok."

Nods went around the room, even from the people I really expected to have some sort of spiritual answer for me. I didn't expect the answer to be, "Don't read your Bible."

Then the leader of our group, "It's not worth it if it's something that's actually coming BETWEEN you and your relationship with God. I read my Bible every day because I love to, and anytime I think 'I have to go read my Bible, but I really don't want to or don't have time' ... then I just don't. Because that's not what I want our relationship to be about."

Guilt
Acceptance
Love
Being Known

For me, it's so much better this way.

The only time I go back to my Bible is when I'm assured in his rest and I'm intrigued. Maybe one day this will change and I'll find joy and rest in reading my Bible every day, but until then I know I CAN be at rest without it. 

I know God sees my guilt, and then accepts me, loves me, and knows me no matter what.

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