Ever thought about trying to read through the Bible in a year? Saint Andrew’s Pat Boston shares her challenging, sometimes tedious, but ultimately rewarding experience. Pat is a partner, a mother, a Disciple, a Democrat, a musician, a dog lover, a reader, a fair cook, and according to her friends, a “roach on a hot griddle.”
My mother-in-law gave me a One Year Bible last year. It is an English Standard Version with no explanation or introduction, just daily designated consecutive chapters from the Old Testament; the New Testament; a Psalm (goes around twice); and a Proverb (also twice); so that within the year the reader will have completed the entire Bible. As an avid reader, I didn’t think that sounded too difficult, and my Mother-in-law’s generous gift of the Bible was an acknowledgement of my interest in all things religious, so I was bound to read it out of respect for her.
But surprisingly, I’ve spent the entire year struggling with it daily. Now nearing the end of December, I still have to read Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi as well as 2nd and 3rd John, Jude and Revelation; plus repeats of Psalms and Proverbs. And this obligatory reading has not always been a spiritual, loving act to nurture my understanding of God and Jesus and the historical movement of Judaism and Christianity in humanity’s progress. Nope. Instead, it has often been a difficult, annoying, forced march through a sometimes boring rehash of how many tens of thousands fought against whom in defense of what god, who used what clever tactic to win, and how many women, children, and cattle were slain in the fruitless pursuit of peace and prosperity. Oh, and a messiah who might come. Someday…
Yes, some writers depict the Bible as among the greatest works of literature, full of fantastic stories of valor, cunning, romance, interesting births and miracles, and the basis for the faith of over two billion people. Yet I came to view it as plot after plot after plot, and death after death after death of the Israelites and their enemies. In many cases the death of the enemy was assured–no, mandated– by a seemingly self-centered, jealous god who wanted all the love and adoration of a chosen people. A people whose concept of ‘one god’ made it easier to attribute or blame history’s events on one, rather than many gods, and about a people whose misguided slaughter of millions of humans, oxen, sheep, goats and doves were given to appease this supposedly selective jealous god.And my reading quandaries continued with the New Testament, which begins with an announcement from a hermit type who ate bugs and bee spit, written by a physician, a tax man, a fisherman, and various itinerants who remembered the events differently and recorded them as such.
But now for some strange reason, after almost a year of mentally arguing with the biblical minutia in my daily reading, I’ve come to realize that the Old Testament especially is not just meant to show mankind’s pride or stupidity or sin or rebellion or desert wanderings or wars or sacrifices. That’s not what it’s about.
What it is about, and what I’ve been slow to recognize, is that GOD IS LOVE. In all those stories, God corrects humanity’s waywardness because God loves creation. The gifts of freedom, victory, land, manna, and all else are bounties given through God’s love for the people. The redirecting of Old Testament characters through a cloud, a burning bush, a donkey or giant fish or parting waters were all delivered through God’s love.
And eventually, so was Jesus. That messiah who was maybe going to come, some day… For God did so love creation that he sent the continuing example of a real human savior, whose birth we celebrate in this season. A child is born. A son is given. With that new insight, I may just finish this Bible this year. I might even read it again next year.