How to Read the Bible (or not) on this Journey

Reflections from Dr. Howell

You may notice I haven’t pushed Bible reading in this series so far, and have hardly mentioned it. Two reasons, really. The Bible is intimidating; it’s a big, sprawling, thick jungle of a book with genealogies, wonder, wars and delight. And you can command extensive Bible knowledge, but never have cultivated an intimate relationship with the God behind, above and between the lines of the Bible.

You’ve probably seen the Bible mis-used. Somebody slices out a little chunk here and and another there, mashes them together, and produces something not in sync with the Bible’s larger themes. And the Bible gets weaponized. Somebody is always firing off a little Bible salvo to judge and wound others.

Even approached in a healthy way, Bible reading can function like a substitute for spirituality. I’m a reader – so I read, and then I can put my checkmark on my to-do list. I’m still doing, moving on, instead of being still. We’ll get back to ways to be blessed by the Bible – and all will involve taking time to ponder, to chew on it, to let it wash over and into you. And you read slowly. It’s not a Colleen Hoover novel where you hustle to the next plot twist, or a shareholder annual report where you thumb through looking for the bottom line.

For now, let me suggest 3 moments in the Bible that can guide you in this quest to become spiritual. The first I’ve touched on several times: “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). I often joke around about finding a hidden manuscript from ancient times in which the original text read “Be still and know that I am God – and you aren’t.” How can I be still? God. God is. God is God. I’m not. My quality of life isn’t defined by all I jam into it or all the check marks on my to-do list, but by my being God’s child, one secure enough to rest in God’s stillness.

Secondly, Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart, and see if there is anything hurtful in me.” The spiritual life isn’t securing favors from God, or feeling a religious swoon. It is the pursuit of a clean and healthy mind and heart that can mirror God’s mind and heart. We invite God to shine the bright light of love deep inside us, and if anything there breaks God’s heart, or can wound others, or damages or limits our relationship with God, we ask God to get rid of it, to heal us.

And thirdly, Galatians 5:22-23: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” The spiritual life asks, What is God’s will? This list of 9 is the baseline. God doesn’t demand these things so much as God is laboring for and dreaming of them becoming reality and growing in you. Evidence that you’re making a little progress in the spiritual life might be you exhibit more patience, or you are kind in situations you once weren’t, or generosity is feeling more like a habit than a one-off. The spiritual life isn’t a compartment distinct from real life. It manifests itself in how you think, interact, respond, and move around all day, every day.

TRY THIS: Print or hand-write these 3 verses and stick them in places where you’ll encounter them through the day.