Yesterday this popped up in my Twitter mentions:
I loved it for 3 reasons:
1. The guy is asking for pointers - I'm always impressed by people who ask questions and seek direction.
2. The tweet itself reads ever so slightly passive-aggresive, which means that Nowhere Man and I could probably be BFF's in real life.
3. Duh. I'm a missionary - Hoping that a person will give the Bible a chance is, like, what I do.
Also? This really resonated with me because when I first became interested in the whole Jesus thing, someone gave me a Bible and I practically ran home because I was so excited to dive in. But, unlike my twitter friend, Nowhere Man, I wasn't smart enough to ask for suggestions as to the best way to do that. So, since the Bible is a book (and I've always been in the habit of starting books in the beginning and ending them at the end) I opened it to page one and just started reading.
Now, you may already know this, but the Bible is kinda... weird.
No one had ever mentioned that to me before.
I had always heard the Bible described with words like 'inspiring' and 'true' and 'life-changing'.
No one ever warned me that the old Testament is forever talking about creepy things like incest and murder and foreskin. And everybody is raping everybody. And they're stealing everybody's wives and their cattle and their inheritance and junk. By the time you get to Leviticus, you might be
It's that weird.
And that's exactly what happened to me. I sat down and started reading in Genesis, ready for the all the words I'd ever heard about the Bible to come true, ready for all of its wisdom and truth and to come pouring into my soul. And maybe some little part of me really did believe that I'd open up this ancient text and be instantly moved, indwelled by some kind of Spiritual understanding, and that it would change my life forever and ever. But that's not even close to what happened.
Instead, I opened the Bible, read a few chapters, and closed it - feeling confused and kinda disturbed. I was disappointed. And I was pretty sure I wouldn't be diving back in for more anytime soon. I didn't find it relatable, or even sensible. Mostly, it just left me scratching my head, like "For real?!"
Luckily, around that same time a dear friend invited me to a Bible study at her house. I was beyond reluctant, but I went anyway - probably because someone promised brownies. The people in that group never made me feel like a dumbass for my Bible-idiocy. Like, I practically lost my nut when someone pointed out that the Bible had a Table of Contents, right there in front (Who knew?!), but nobody acted like I was a moron for not knowing that. That group would continue to walk with me, slowly and carefully, through the pages of the Bible for years to come. They became the friends who would guide me past the weird stuff I'd gotten hung up on in my first foray and on to other themes, good stuff, like Grace and Mercy and Hope. It was with that same group of spiritual caretakers that I would first read through the Gospels, hear from James and Paul, and learn the plight of the early church. And from those fellow lovers of Jesus, I would come to understand the Bible as one whole story, with its greatest message being the sum of its parts... even the weird parts.
Which brings me to my two big awesome tips for reading the Bible:
1. DON'T START AT THE BEGINNING (because it will freak you out)!
I asked El Chupacabra what advice he would give a first time Bible reader and he recommended starting off by reading the Gospels in chronological order (Bible-y folks call this a "Harmony of the Gospel" because Christians can't be trusted to use secular words, like "chronology"). This method will have you bouncing around a bit, but it can give you a cohesive idea as to how Jesus lived, taught, traveled and spent his time. I'm a fan. And, yes, El Chupacabra is a genius.
2. DON'T GO IT ALONE! Find someone whom you trust, and who is farther along than you are in the process of following Jesus, and study the Bible WITH that person (or, better yet, people). And ask a TON of questions. Also? Use the bazillion resources at your fingertips to find answers to your questions. (*hint* When not being used to feed ugly porn habits, the internet can be a rich source of material related to understanding the Bible. Help yourself.... to the Bible stuff, not the porn stuff. Stay away from the porn stuff.)
And the only other thing I would add to my list of super-incredible-how-did-I-not-think-of-that-?!-Bible-reading-tips-of-the-Century is....
GIVE IT TIME.
Let it marinade. Let yourself stew in it for a bit.
For me, understanding the Bible is a process. I had to learn to give it time to sink in. I had to soak it up. I had to wrestle with it for a long while before any of it made any sense at all. But I find that the more time I spend with it, the more of it I am able to take on. I don't always get it. I still close it sometimes to push it across the table and scratch my head in confusion. But, for me, one thing is certain; Having a Savior isn't just an idea that I carry in my head anymore, it has become a Truth which has penetrated my very flesh and bone, it beats in time with my heart, whispers in my breath, and stirs my soul...
And I pray, Nowhere Man, as you begin to search the wonder and weirdness of the Bible, that the same may be true for you.
.... ..... .....
What tips would you give to someone cracking open the Bible for the first time?