The holidays, for good or bad, are over. And once again you’re facing a new year. It’s full of new possibilities, new opportunities, blank pages, unwritten stories. It feels like a chance for a do-over, something many of us would gladly take when it comes to Bible reading. Because if we’re honest, we’re not so great at it.
You may have made resolutions in the past, maybe multiple years. You may have even found a partner and decided that accountability would make a difference. You got a great start, found a rhythm, and enjoyed it. And somewhere in Leviticus, or near the end of February, you stopped. Life got busy. The baby started waking up again. Work became more stressful. You got bored. What does this mean about you?
It means you’re human.
On Habits and Restarts
Though we may put it in a different category because of the power it holds, reading the bible is like other human activities, which means that at some point, we’ll fail. Unfortunately many of us have assigned this failure to keep a good habit or be consistent in a spiritual discipline a significance it doesn’t deserve. We’ve decided it means we don’t love Jesus, or that we’re a lesser-than disciple, or that we’re just not good at reading the Bible. Here’s what it really means: Life got busy. We are embodied souls. And embodied souls live with stress and changing circumstances, restarts and do-overs. And the restarts are just as important as the first starts.
Think about it this way. Let’s say you are the head cook in your household. One year in January you decide you want to cook more and eat out less. So you plan menus, join Instacart, and make time to prepare meals. All is going well until the end of March when you take on a new project at work. Suddenly the time for prep you once had is taken up by work. Cooking time shrinks, and suddenly you find yourself in the take-out line at the BBQ joint up the street twice a week.
Does this mean that you should decide to stop cooking altogether? Does it mean you’re a bad cook? Or that you don’t love your family? Of course not! It means you regroup, re-plan, and take stock. It means you filled your family with home cooked (or if you’re like me, freezer to pan) meals for three months, which is important, nourishing, and noteworthy. Because the goal isn’t that you can mark the box on your calendar every day that says you cooked. The goal is that your family is fed well.
Commit Not to a Program, but to Trying and Restarting
What does this have to do with Bible reading? Sometimes we get confused about why we read. We think reading and praying are goals to be attained, not practices to nourish us. So, when we miss a few times, or get behind, we think we’ve “failed” and have no reason to continue. The truth is, the nourishment from those times of reading and praying were valuable and real. And if we struggle to be consistent about those times, it doesn’t mean we’re less spiritual or love Jesus less. It means we need to strategize differently, give ourselves grace, and look for nourishment in a different way.
Maybe your early morning time isn’t working because you’re too sleepy. Maybe your nap time plan is crowded out by chores. Whatever it is, try something different, but don’t stop. Don’t give up. God doesn’t look at you with a disappointed grimace and a wagging finger when you stop or slow down on your Bible reading. He’s not a taskmaster with an angry disposition. He’s a loving father who understands your limits, so much so that he sent Jesus to live within those limits.
Perhaps instead of reading three chapters a day by yourself you join a Bible study with others. Or maybe you listen to the Bible read to you on your morning run. Maybe you read a shorter passage with your children. There is no magical hierarchy of Bible reading. Just a human soul that needs to hear from her Creator. There are practical tools that can help you stay on track. I recommend the “Read Through the Bible Plan for Shirkers and Slackers” from Ransom Fellowship.
Remember, Jesus doesn’t love you more when you read the Bible in a year. You don’t get extra points for reading an extra chapter. What he does is lay out in his word a meal of delights. He offers himself as he is revealed in the pages of scripture. And then he invites you to come and be encouraged, challenged, loved, convicted, led, and disciplined.
So, yes, make a plan. Set yourself up for success so you can work the plan. If and when it doesn’t work, make a different plan. Because the goal is not that you check all the boxes; rather, the goal is that you hear from your heavenly Father, in whatever form, time frame, or method you can. We can know the Creator of the universe—the One who forms every raindrop and flower petal. And the chief way you can discover more about him is through his word. This year make it your aim to commit yourself not necessarily to a certain program or method, but to trying and re-starting, as many times as needed. His invitation to you and the feast of his word will be there waiting.
About the Author:
Christine B. Gordon, MATS, is wife to Michael and mother of three. She earned her Master of Arts in Theological Studies at Covenant Seminary. She currently lives in St. Louis where she works as the intake coordinator for a counseling center. She loves to walk, make music with other people, and share bad puns with her family.