One of the many things my students used to tease me about was my use of the word “favorite”. I tend to be fickle in my tastes and don’t really have any one thing that I can say I prefer above all others. I often make choices based on how I’m feeling at the moment. Sometimes my favorite lunch is salad; sometimes it’s guacamole and tortilla chips. Sometimes I want to go out for Italian food while sometimes I am hungry for steak. Sometimes I want to sit down with To Kill a Mockingbird while other times I crave non-fiction like The Devil in the White City. Students would mention a book during class and more often seemed logical I would say, “Oh! That’s my favorite!” I enjoy discussing books with people and sometimes the question, “What’s your favorite book?” is asked.
Now here’s the part where I’m going to be very real with you. My least favorite answer to that question is, “The Bible.” I know, I know! It’s the Bible! It’s the literal Word of God. But as an answer to that question, it seems like such a conversation-stopper. I’m excited to talk about being entertained by Pride and Prejudice or To Kill a Mockingbird and this answer comes across as demonstrating spiritual superiority. Maybe it’s not intended that way. I feel terrible about being annoyed by this answer but when I consider my feelings there’s a good explanation for my annoyance.
The Bible is a big book. It is 66 books that vary in genre telling a meta-narrative of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. When I was younger I would read it out of a sense of obligation one chapter at a time. The reading was painful because it was confusing and the sense of obligation made it a drudgery. For a while, on the advice of some lesson I heard, I tried to read until I found something to me. This was really hard to do particularly when reading through the law or genealogies. At some point, I gave up and did daily devotionals (sometimes) just to keep from feeling guilty.
Then around 2012, I had a crisis of faith that drove me to ask, “Is all this really true? Am I wasting my time with all this God stuff or is there something worth clinging to?” I thank God daily that through a series of circumstances, I came upon friends and a congregation of believers who loved me and pointed me to God. They didn’t guilt me or push but they loved me, prayed for me, and left room for God to work. I started wanting to read the Bible because I wanted to see what it said. I hadn’t really considered the meta-narrative before so I wanted to learn about that. I read The Story and found myself riveted. I knew what was going to happen but I still couldn’t put it down! It was so exciting. Later I read The Books of the Bible which is the entire Bible with the chapter and verse numbers removed. You may think, as I did, that those aren’t a big deal, but boy, I was shocked to see how much clearer the text was. It was challenging to search and mark passages so I understand why we have the divisions we have but still deeply appreciated this read-through.
For the last several years I’ve been on a quest to read through several different versions and so far I’ve read the KJV, NASB, NLV, HCSB, and the NIV. I'm currently working through the ESV but that’s going to take a while because I’m doing it one study at a time. I’m about a year six months in and I’m only through Psalms and sixteen chapters of Genesis. My reading is challenging as it changes me, exciting as I make connections and understand more about God, and enjoyable as I read along with the millions of others in our time and in ages past who have read and loved the same book.
So what does all this have to do with my annoyance at answering “The Bible” when asked to name my favorite book? I think it’s because although it is a book I see it as so much more. It is fair to say that every book I’ve ever read has had some kind of impact on me. The words have made a difference in my life, which is why I love reading so much. In Pride and Prejudice, I see a beautiful love story, a quirky family, and a strong woman who refuses to settle for the life society has foisted upon her. In To Kill a Mockingbird I see the horrors of racism and prejudice through the innocent eyes of a child. I love these stories, but I would not die for the book itself or for the authors. In contrast, the Bible is a book full of ancient truths that are living and active. I would die for this book and its Author. I’ve seen this book change lives and I’ve seen people react in strong opposition to it because they hate its Author.
I’m going to start posting the results of the last several years of reading, listening, watching, visiting, and interviewing people about women. Before doing so I want to clearly state that my foundational book, the book I try to consume daily, the book that has changed my life is the Bible. I love it. I would die for the words it contains and it is important to me that you know that because it will be my foundational premise. I look forward to sharing the things that I’ve learned and hearing from you about them.
"A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one."