I’ve never been particularly big at New Year’s resolutions but when a priest friend of mine put out a call for participants in a 30-day Bible reading challenge my interest was piqued.
I’ve read the Bible many times before, but I love a good challenge.
This particular Bible reading plan was dubbed, in Jillian Michaels fashion, as a “30-day Shred”.
It looked absolutely monstrous, with an average reading load of 40 chapters per day.
I began by finding a good audiobook version of the Bible. I knew I wouldn’t have time to actually sit and read every single day; it would take at least an hour of reading and it didn’t seem feasible. Luckily, there are plenty of audiobook versions of the Bible available and I found one easily.
So, tracking with the Bible app on my phone, a thinline copy of the Bible in my backpack, and an audiobook version for home and the car I was ready to begin.
An Incredible Immersion…
The first thing I want to say about the whole experience is how incredibly immersive it was.
In order to finish the 30-day shred I had immerse myself in the Bible all day long.
I listened to the Bible first thing in the morning while making breakfast for the kids, and again at lunch. I played the Bible in the car driving around town and again while cleaning up after supper. During nap times I sat and read. In the evenings, while everyone else slept, I often held my eyes open with toothpicks to finish that last half hour or so of reading I needed to stay on track for the day.
If I’m honest with you, I even kept a copy of the Bible in the bathroom for those rare moments of solitude (if you’re a stay-at-home parent with young kids you know what I mean).
And, I should say, there’s nothing like shouting at a toddler to stop climbing on his sister with Nehemiah intoning in the background.
I’ve read the Bible before, lots of times and in lots of different contexts. I’ve read it chronologically, thematically, I’ve studied particular books or sections or authors in greater detail through study groups but I’ve never found myself so completely immersed in Scripture.
I was listening first thing in the morning and reading it just before bed. It permeated my day in a way I never thought it would, and the result was amazing.
Everything is Scripture
I found that everything began to relate to Scripture.
Throughout the course of my day, in my big and small failures, in my victories and successes, I began to see the stories of the Bible reflected. In biblical heroes, great and small, I saw reflections of my self, my own struggles, my own accomplishments, and how God returns, again and again, to offer me mercy and grace and forgiveness.
I began to see patterns and connections I’d never made before.
Typology, the study of types and prefigurements in the Old Testament as reflected in the New is an ancient kind of theology—a way of understanding both halves of the Bible revealed to us by St. Paul himself. By reading the Bible at such a great pace, by devouring it so quickly, I began to see deep connections and reflections I’d never noticed before.
How many times God uses water, wine, and the physical things of the world He created to express Himself and teach us how to believe.
How concepts of forty days, seven, and twelve occur over and over again.
How the worship spelled out by the God in the Old Testament is reflected so fully in the ancient Christian Liturgy.
How every hero in the Bible prefigures the person of Christ.
I could go on.
Not only was I making typological connections I’d never made before but my participation at Mass on a Sunday was immediately deepened when I’d recognize the context and characters from some obscure Old Testament passage or from something that Paul had written. I could place these things, in context, in the greater scheme of Salvation History because I’d read the whole thing, in one big go.
It took everything I had not to thrust my hand up in the air and shout, “Hey! That’s from the time that Ezra was reading the Law to the Jewish people from his wooden stand!”
I felt like an uncover Bible scholar.
The Ever-Present Voice of God
And God spoke.
By immersing myself in the Scripture I was open to hearing from God in a way that I truly hadn’t been before. God was, quite literally, speaking in my ear all day long.
If there was something God wanted to speak into my life it was found in Jonah fleeing the people of Nineveh for the belly of the whale. Or Job struggling to understand God in a world flipped upside down. Or Jesus multiplying bread and fish to feed the five thousand, which echos the Israelites and the manna in the wilderness.
These stories, one after another, spoke deeply into my life as I listened and read all day long. And it fixed me, firmly, in my own place in the history of God’s people. A kind of holy grounding as I read and listened day after day; that I, too, am part of this great cosmic story.
You Should Read the Bible in 30 Days, Too
By the end of my 30-day shred the benefits were tangible.
I had devoured the Word of God. It had permeated my life in such a meaningful way that, by the end, I began to miss it when I’d finished my section of readings for the day. By the next morning I couldn’t wait to begin again. I truly hungered for the Word of God in a way I hadn’t experienced since the very first time I got my hands on the Bible nearly twenty years ago.
It was like being a new believer all over again.
I was learning things. I was open to hearing from God in a very meaningful way. And I was grounded, like never before, in the history of our salvation story.
It wasn’t easy. My priest friend, who remains shamefully anonymous, still hasn’t made it out of the Psalms but he got us started, I guess, and he says that should count for something. We’ll let him off the hook.
It certainly isn’t for the faint of heart. But, in the end, if you’re looking for a challenge of biblical proportions maybe this is the one for you. The Bible in 30 days was, indeed, a shred but if spiritual exercise equates, at all, to physically working out I’d like to think I’m a least a little more spiritually fit than when I started out.
Or, at least, a little more well-read in random Bible trivia—because that could be a thing.