So I continued to go to church on Sundays, even if I didn’t feel up to it. Nothing miraculous or magical was happening, but I detected subtle changes happening in my life. My random bouts of anger against God had subsided. And although I still couldn’t relate to the songs being sung in church, the lyrics no longer made me feel angry…I simply felt either baffled or empty. I figured the time might come when those feelings, too, would subside.
Besides a developing connection to a community of good people, another good thing was coming out of regular attendance. Pastor Dave’s sermons were giving me good things to think about. It didn’t matter, really, if I agreed or not with what he preached…just spending time considering why I agreed or disagreed was time better spent than on all the things I obsessed about before I started attending church:
Can I get the mortgage paid on time? How soon until my daughter needs braces? Can the roof last another year? When is college tuition due? Has the next cardiac MRI been scheduled? And, for the life of me, why does work have to suck so much?
All those worries (and many, many more) still existed, but they sort of fell away as I explored my relationship with the church and the world around me. I simply had more positive things to focus my attention on.
That alone made me less anxious.
But I had this dirty little secret I couldn’t quite come to terms with whenever I was at church. I’m not a true believer. I don’t think I am, anyway. Am I enough of a believer? What’s enough belief? Is there such thing as a measure of faith, or is it truly an all-or-none kind of thing?
Those kinds of worries are sort of good, regardless of what you believe.
One day at Café Firefly, at the men’s lifegroup, the guys were talking about how an app was reminding them that they had fallen behind on their daily reading of the Bible. “Ugh,” I thought. “The Bible.” My dirty little secret cringed inside.
I had never read the Bible before, but had tried a few times. I couldn’t ever get past the thee’s and thou’s and art’s. My hesitation went beyond that, though. A core belief at Lifeline Church is that the Bible is God’s Word. I simply can’t accept that.
I can accept that the Bible is divinely inspired, but the word of God? There’s a difference.
If the Bible is the word of God, why didn’t he write it himself? After all, God supposedly created the heavens and Earth and all we see. But he can’t write a book? Heck, even I can do that.
I simply couldn’t imagine sitting down again to try reading the Bible. Every day. Especially since I keep handy a well-read copy of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Huck's moseying on whether the stars "was made or only just happened"...I can relate to that.
Dave showed me the app he had on his phone: YouVersion. It’s a buggy little app that provides a modern twist on reading the Bible. You choose your translation, pick a reading plan, and throttle your goal. “Check it out,” he said. “It’s free.”
Wade recommended the reading plan he was on that would wrap up reading the Bible inside a year. What he liked about this plan was that the app sends small chunks to read each day--verses from the Old Testament alongside the New.
I said I would check it out, but suspected that that was about as far as my relationship with the app would go.
But then I thought about it. Maybe I wasn’t ready to accept the Bible as the word of God, but that didn’t mean I had to outright reject it. And if I was going to reject it, I figured, I should at least know what I was rejecting.
I downloaded the app and configured it with Wade’s suggested reading plan. Again, language was an issue. And I didn’t know enough about the historical contexts to be able to appreciate what was going on with the jumbled verses. I wished God had first attended college and taken Creative Writing 101.
My skepticism ran amok.
Before chucking the app and returning to Mark Twain, however, I decided to play around with its configuration a little bit. Language was a problem for me, so I traded the American Standard Version for a more contemporary version, The Message. I then switched to a chronological reading plan and started reading again from the beginning.
And despite my continued issues with Biblical specifics and personal doubts, a small miracle occurred.
I started to enjoy reading the Bible.