There are moments when I don't want any part of the Bible. Sometimes when I pick it up to study, there's a curious rebellion within me. But I have gradually come to recognize this sensation as the devil running scared.
For he is frightened, you know, when he sees us open the Book. He well knows it sings and sparks of another way of life, now closed to him but still open to us. He's skilled at thought suggestion, and there have been times when I actually fell for his "You have no time for nonessentials today" or "It's pretty heavy reading-how about a new magazine?" or "You might better be visiting your friend rather than sitting around reading."
Usually these days, however, I ignore his promptings. But, even as I begin to read, sometimes that curious reluctance lingers. The trick, again, is to ignore it. Then, slowly, I am caught up in that other world of which I read.
For it is another world, whether one is wandering with Abraham or pondering the new lifestyle of a converted Paul. A world where humans are reaching out fearfully, hopefully, toward that Being from whom they sprang, to whom they belong, and for whom they are ever lonely.
It's a story of failure and despair, forgiveness and hope, and always the love and concern of God hovering over His wayward planet.
But the Bible is even more than an account of humanity's long struggle to find its way back to Eden. It is a personal letter to me from my God, and such is the magic of the Book that is also an individual message to you as well.
It will speak to your particular personality and hang-ups just as specifically as it does to mine. Only God could offer a Book so grand in theme, yet so personally slanted to each human being.
My Bible is rather like a journal of the past 25 years of my life (I didn't study it seriously before that). As I browse here and there, I remember when this verse, or that, came sharply into focus, usually out of my own momentary predicament.
As a tearful young woman whose husband had just been borrowed by Uncle Sam, I stumbled onto Job 23:10: "He knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold" (KJV). That verse sustained me through the loneliness that approached physical illness. It may be just empty words to one who's never needed it.
Beside Psalm 37:24 is penned: "The most encouraging words I ever read-8/6/68." I no longer even remember the reason it was so important to me then, but the message has stayed with me. "Though he ['a good man'] fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand" (KJV).
Perhaps my Bible means most of all to me on Sabbath mornings when I rise early and go to my prayer garden at the south end of our big red barn. There, on a little terrace, with the fountain tinkling in the sun, the day still fresh and cool, I open the Bible with anticipation-lately to the book of John. Verse by verse I explore John's view of Jesus Christ. All about me the earth offers apple blossoms and swallow ballets as evidence of His love and creativity. Somehow His words to me and His gift of beauty all combine with my own adoration of Him to make for a total experience.
Most experiences today are a bit frayed at the edges. The breakfast hour and the demands of my family beckon. But I am reluctant to leave, for there in that sacred spot His words are ever new and lifechanging.
I'm sorry, Satan, but I want that life you chose to scorn, and the more I read my ragged old Bible, the more I want it.
June Strong's "When I Don't Feel Like It" first appeared in the These Times special issue on the Bible.