Friday, February 15, 2008

Reading the Owner's Manual

A while back, I remarked about how I don't remember actors' names, I know nothing about their "personal" lives, and I can't keep track of anyone's film credits. A well-meaning companion said, "But you study your Bible and know much more about it than most people." Wow. That was intended to be a compliment or an encouragement, so why did it leave me feeling flat?

It's good to read the Bible, to know what it says. If you're interested in old, really old, literature, there's cultural and historical information for you. If you're into debate, you can easily find someone to wrangle over questions of authorship, dates, or content. But this all sounds incredibly dry. It reminds me of kids being quizzed about the names and reigns of Old Testament kings. I don't mean any disrespect, but who cares? Reading the Bible just to read the Bible seems about as attractive as thumbing through the old owner's manuals in the photo. History, culture, and maybe some practical instructions... Dry, dry, dry.

Having said that, I must admit that I'm in the process of reading through the Bible. The whole thing, cover to cover. I think I started about four years ago, and I'm somewhere in the middle now. A long time ago, I embarked on my first read-it-in-a-year plan. I've tried to do it a few times, but never came close to reaching that goal. One of the problems for me is that I can't just read it. If I find something that gives me pause, I have to work it over and write about it. I'm sure I wouldn't remember what I skim over in a daily reading assignment, but I can always look back over my journal entries and feel the WOW again. And this has given me lots to hang on to, to chew on later, so it's worth plodding along.

In some recent plodding, I came across a familiar little passage that seems to fit here:

Thus says the Lord, "Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things," declares the Lord.

Okay, so it doesn't matter to Him if I don't know who Brangelina is, or what she wore to the awards show (they had one recently, right?), or if I'm two seasons behind on a certain sitcom. I'm hoping it also doesn't matter to Him if I read His book with a seven-year plan. My purpose in reading the Bible is to know God better. Sometimes I laugh, many times I cry, and then I just shake my head. He's so different than anyone else I know. I like knowing Him, experiencing Him, and reading about His doings.

I think I'll keep those old owner's manuals. They'll give my sons something to laugh at, ten years from now.

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