I recently had a conversation with God that went something like this…
Me: “God, I want to know you more. I want to know more about You and Your Word. Please show me where to read and what to read so I can experience growth on a different level.”
God: “Ok, then. Go back to the beginning. Start over.”
Start over? I thought. What is that supposed to mean? To be perfectly honest, it was not the answer I was expecting. I was hoping for a more specific word from Him like “Go directly to John 6” or “You are to study the book of Ruth” or something of the kind. Start over were not the words I wanted to hear. Admittedly, it’s in my nature to reject the notion of “starting over”…in relation to, well, most anything. Though some may think that “starting over” sounds like an exciting prospect, a fresh chance, a new start/clean slate, it just feels like an awful lot of backtracking to me. And I am a more forward thinker, keep going, full steam ahead kind-of-girl.
But when God speaks, I have finally learned to listen.
So with those seemingly non-specific instructions, I opened my Bible to Genesis, where it made the most sense for me to be in starting over. But I soon came to see that the starting over didn’t really have much, at all, to do with logistics. And God knew exactly what He meant by taking me back to the beginning.
Let me explain…
Not long after I started writing and speaking, a good friend of mine asked me if I had thought about writing Bible Studies for women. Uncensored, I gave her my most honest and straightforward answer that until then had been tucked neatly in the corners of my heart… “No, not really. In order to be a Bible Study teacher, I need to first become a better Bible student.” She looked puzzled by my comment, keenly aware of my background as a pastor’s daughter being reared in the church. After all, I was practically birthed in a worship center (then called a Sanctuary)…cut teeth on the church pew…and waded through my school years under the watchful eye of a church congregation. I learned Bible stories at the earliest of ages. But I was very serious about what I said. There is a difference, I have learned, between knowing ABOUT something, and truly knowing and understanding something. The older in my faith and age I have gotten, the more I crave to know God more. And knowing Him more means first recognizing all that I DON’T know about Him, but want to.
Traditionally in the past, when I started a Bible book study or character study, one could find me in the nearest Christian bookstore looking for a “guide” or workbook to sort my way through it. After all, I, like so many others, love to read most anything I can put my hands on. I read devotional books, inspirational books, autobiographies, and yes, even the sights and smells of Biblical commentaries excite me. Make no mistake about it…I love books. I have always loved books. I am a voracious reader of books. And, of course, I also love writing. It is very near and dear to my heart, at the top of my list of pastimes and passions, surpassed only by my love for God and my family.
But after this particular conversation with God, I didn’t go out looking for an outside aid to help me in my studies. I felt led, instead, to go straight to the source, Himself. I cracked open my Bible to page 5 and asked God to show me and teach me, one-on-one, guiding me by the power of the Holy Spirit. I asked for His discernment. I requested understanding. And something really cool happened for me. Can I tell you that I have thus far been on a 30-something day journey with God through Genesis that, despite lack of outside aids, has been without void or lack of anything? It has been among the most exciting “quiet times” of my life, and through it, God has revealed something to me that I had possibly lost perspective of. Maybe you have, too.
Friends, God’s desire is for us to know Him. That’s the way He set it up and the way He wants it to be. It’s a one-on-one, up close and personal, breath-on-breath, kind of a relationship He desires for us. No outside sources are needed or required for this relationship to happen or for us to know God. Helpful as they can be, other good sources, books and aids are not absolute necessities in engaging with God and delving into his Word. His infallible, inherent Word stands alone, and it truly needs no companion or third party involvement to give it power.
I know, I know…this is weird comment for me to make, the lover of books and the craft of writing, that I am.
I’m not conflicted, though, at all, in saying it. Because it has nothing to do with loving books or writing…or supporting and encouraging outside aids for study of the Bible.
It has to do with our human nature…my human nature…to exalt things and people, sometimes to the neglect of the One who deserves our exaltations. It’s the fact that often the perspective is misplaced in our Godly desire to grow and experience God. Over time, because of our long-held traditions or lack of confidence in our own relationship with God, we may begin to feel like we have to access Him through a certain type of study or with our usual inspirational aids to help us. If we don’t have those things, we fear that it won’t hold the same meaning for us, and our study time might not be fulfilling to us. We come to rely on the insights of others given to them by God when He longs to reveal things to us in an equally personal way. I don’t know about you, but for me, one of the single coolest things about having a relationship with God is knowing that I do not have to go through anyone else to get to Him. Remember the beautiful picture of this by the tearing of the veil? (See Mark 15:38 and Hebrews 9)
Whether or not we have the confidence in our relationship with God or our understanding of Scripture is not the issue. Jesus says in James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” The deal is that we come with the request (for wisdom), and He delivers every time we ask for it with the understanding we need to grow and learn. The process is extremely personal and yes, pretty…basic. But amazingly deep and beautiful, all at the same time.
As for me, these days I am learning to be a better Bible student. I’ve got the best teacher in the world, and ironically, I am the only one in this particular class. Talk about intimacy!