I used to read better.
My childhood memories are full of libraries and bookstores, of paper smells and page-turning sounds, of rubbing my fingers over spines on shelves and clicking on flashlights to discover literary universes under my bed covers. Back when I was a kid, I read because words were fun, because stories could tell me about the world around me even as they transported me to other ones, and because books gave me the opportunity to connect with the voices of others. I used to read for love—love of story and love of author.
Somewhere along the way, that changed. As an adult, words have become pressures instead of pleasures, books have becomes sources of knowledge instead of sources of relationship, and I have become tired of written communication. Transformed into a means to an end, reading has stopped being an act of sacrificial listening, of letting go of control, of pure delight, of humility and openness for the sake of relationship. I no longer read for love.
This is concerning to me, for many reasons, but it is especially worrisome in regards to my reading of Scripture. I used to read the Bible to genuinely connect with the words and the Word. These days, whether you want to blame it on the postmodern world we live in or just the nature of growing up, it’s harder for me to read well. Yet I long to connect with God, to wholeheartedly pursue a loving relationship with the One who is Love and created me to love. When I think about that, I know that reading Scripture well is a big step in the right direction.
As I attempt to read the Bible better—for love of the story and author, the way that used to come more naturally to me—I’ve learned some things that may be helpful for anyone who wants to do the same.
Start With Prayer
Having a posture of love when it comes to Scripture reading, first and foremost means remembering that reading should be a conversation. We may not always personally know the authors we read, but we have direct access to the One who wrote the Bible. He can hear us and respond. So, before reading, I pray, asking Him to show up and illuminate His words. Then I read expecting that He will.
Go Straight To The Source
We have access to so many amazing resources today that can help us navigate our time in the Word. This being the case, I am sometimes tempted to only go to secondary sources to hear what other people say about the Bible, instead of actually reading the Bible for myself. In some ways it feels simpler and safer. Through the lens of reading as an act of love though, this seems preposterous. It’s like if I were trying to form a relationship with my boyfriend solely by spending time with people who know him. They may know him super well, and love him deeply, but why would I want to hear them talk all about him when I can hear directly from him instead?
Commit To Reading
In friendships, the more often I talk with and spend time with someone, the easier it gets for me to want to do so. I see this as being true with investing in my relationship with God as well. The more I read the Bible for love, integrating it into my life, the more I want to read the Bible. To get to that point, it’s helpful to look for creative ways to get your Bible off your shelf and into your schedule. Try placing your Bible on your shoes every night before bed, so when you have to move it in the morning on your way out the door you are reminded to read. Listen to Scripture on audio during your regular exercise routine. Or find an accountability partner who will ask you weekly about what you’ve been reading. Commit to doing what works for you, not in order to check the box, but to show up in your relationship with Christ. He’s already promised He’ll show up too.
Bible reading doesn’t always have to look the same. Vary the routine so it doesn’t get boring. Read aloud, write it down, sing it, draw it, or act it out. Cozy up with the book in a favorite location or pull it out in somewhere completely new. Read with friends and family, in big groups and alone. Use technology to your advantage when it comes to making reading fun and be willing to unplug for a bit when it’s becoming a distraction. I do whatever I can to make sure I’m hiding the words in my heart the way we’re called to, because I know that digesting God’s Word daily is the only way it’s really going to change me.
Share and Apply What You Read
As a kid, I loved talking about my favorite tv shows or books. Let’s be real, I still do. But I’m convinced that the Bible is the best story I’ll ever read, its author being the greatest writer of all time. I’m so thankful I get to read His words, developing a deeper love for Him and what He’s doing in the world through that act of turning pages. It’s only normal for me to want to share this love with others, applying what I learn from spending time with God to my life and discussing it with those around me. As you work to read Scripture more for love, I think this will be your response too. After all, good stories are meant to be lived and shared.
If you are interested in exploring this topic more and hearing more from Amy Nickerson, check out her book “The Word and His Words.”