How often do you sit down to read the Bible, or whatever Scripture your faith is based on?
I’ve been trying to get back into regular Bible study recently; sitting down to read was one of the first things to slide when my depression started, and once my discipline with that disappeared, my prayer life also lost its foundation and before I knew it, I was turning away from God with all my might, as opposed to leaning into Him. ‘Oops’ doesn’t quite cover it. When I’m reading God’s word daily, I know that my prayer life follows suite and that I am more tuned in and grounded, and therefore making time for this should be a complete no-brainer. Sadly, this has not been the case as like some people, and more than most in all honesty, I can be a bit of an idiot. In the last few weeks, with my concentration still pretty poor, and my ability to grasp new information still suffering, I’ve concentrated on revisiting sections that really caught me the first time round, and finding comfort in passages that spoke so strongly six months ago when I was first embarking on formal scripture reading. It’s getting better, but is still hit and miss, for no reason other than sometimes, I chose that extra fifteen minutes in bed in the morning, or if I’m having a vulnerable day, whipping my NIV out in the hospital library for some quick ‘Jesus time’ in front of my peers, feels like a challenge I can easily turn down, unlike so many of the things I struggle with on a daily basis. I am not good at discipline, at the moment.
When Jesus instructs us on how to pray in Matthew 6, I think His words are also relevant to private Bible study – that it’s best done somewhere safe and quiet, away from prying eyes and questioning faces, the hustle and bustle of communal spaces and the relentless conversations that flow around us in rivers of sound. For those of us with a room of our own, Virginia Woolf style, this should be fairly straightforward, yet I know a lot of Christians don’t quite manage it, myself included.
Yesterday, I found some change to put in the hat of a homeless man I could see up ahead, sitting on the street, in the rain, without a jacket, at 8pm on a chilly evening. What was he doing as people passed him by in multiple laters of clothing, bearing umbrellas and chatting on mobile phones, on their way home? He was reading the Bible. He wasn’t sitting in a cosy chair with a cup of coffee and some classical music on low, in the background like the folks in the café behind him. He wasn’t somewhere warm and safe, getting his reading done before watching the 10pm news and turning in for the night. He wasn’t not-reading his Bible as, that afternoon, he was a little over-sensitive to what people might say or a bit worried that someone would see him with it open in his lap and decide not to drop some money in after-all, and hey, he was hungry and didn’t want to take the risk. He was sitting and proudly, openly, studying the Bible. The rain was falling on the passage he had it open to and I could see that the pages were already crinkled from being damp for days on end. The annotations in the margins were blurred from the water coming down, yet he was still reading on in God’s word, Hebrews to be precise (we had a good chat about it). If he can read it on the streets in a downpour, surely I can read it in a well lit room with a good supply of chocolate biscuits?
I don’t know about you, but I think my Bible reading habits just got a pretty big smack round the ear from a pretty big stick. James 2:5 reads: Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?
I LOVE the book of James. I always think he’s such a no-half-measures kind of guy who really puts his money where his mouth is, and walks what he talks, for an extra mile each time. James doesn’t really go in for ‘couldashouldawoulda’ excuses. No empty promises, says James. ‘Maybe-perhaps-sometime-later’ Bible reading isn’t really good enough. NB to blog, words without actions = meaningless, and that includes Bible study – I’ll report back at some point on whether I do gain that discipline – hold me accountable, please.
This homeless man is a whole lot richer in faith than I am. If you’re still reading, why not pick your Bible up afterwards if you haven’t already today? Why not see what unusual places you can read it in this week? It might just inspire someone, like this man inspired me.