I have read the bible a lot. By read, I mean that I’ve followed along, tried to keep up, underlined and made notes. I have done this sitting, standing, in the dark, outside, in a tent, a cabin and a church bus. I have done it alone, with a friend, in a stadium of 70,000 and at the Washington Mall with a million other guys that had their bibles. I have read it with those I agree with and those I strongly oppose. Yes, I have read the bible.
As I write, I have eleven bibles within eyesight including the HOLY Bible Golden Book Edition copyright 1947 with “full color paintings, illuminations and illustrations to beautify and clarify…” It has pressed flowers from the grave of my older brother Lee Charles Wyer; he died at the age of eighteen months before I was born. There are also other flowers from other graves with no notes but memories and tears. This bible smells like nicotine and has a big leather and suede cross used as a book marker – I made it in ninth grade. It is the book my mom read to me in second grade when I was scared of hell; she showed me one of the pictures of heaven.
I have a small red Holy Bible Revised Standard Version published in 1962 and presented to me October 14th, 1964 by First Christian Church in Iowa City, Iowa. It too has some beautiful art. I was nine and my mom had me dedicated with a group of kids. I don’t remember anything about that time in my life except for this bible.
I have a green fake leather book with Readers Digest articles stuck in it. The Living Bible Paraphrased published by Tyndale House Publishers in 1971 and given to my dad for his birthday on January 28, 1972. It is the bible my mom was holding on her lap, on top of her nightgown and covers, the night she slipped into eternity. She made notes in the back about faith and speaking in tongues. She read the bible also.
The first bible I had with my name gold-stamped on it is a handsome black leather beauty; New International Version. It was published by Zondervan and given to me in 1973. The guy who gave it to me was my best friend, I used it a lot. He wrote real spiritual stuff in the front and quoted scripture on the first pages. I cut them out when he betrayed me at the lowest point of my life. I don’t use this one anymore.
I have another black leather bible that is brand new, still in the box – it even smells like new leather car seats. More gold letters on the front but they left out my middle initial. It has sat in that box for more than 10 years and has never been opened; probably never will be.
I have a small compact brown leather travel bible that my in-laws gave me on March 1st, 1996. It has tabs for each of the books of the bible. The type is so small I can’t read it now. I keep it in plain view and it makes me feel loved when I look at it.
None of this even begins to take into account the devotionals, meditations, resource books, bible dictionaries, concordances and other helpful study aids. Yes, I have read the bible.
My life as a middle income, Caucasian, evangelical yuppie has been inundated with books full of printed words attributed to God. It is as if I (and others) believed that as I accumulated these books, the aggregation of the printed words would leave an indelible imprint on my life; they did not.
All of the versions, all of the publisher’s attempts to more clearly present truth, and all of the red letters and paraphrases combined still just offer me more sentimental emotion from memories and head knowledge gained from other people’s perspectives than of any real heart knowledge of the living God of the universe. I have read the bible a lot. I have grown weary of reading the bible.
The question must then be put forth; where do I hear from God? While words and print bring me comfort, they act as a prelude to more. Acknowledging that each person hears from heaven differently, I believe that all of us hear just a bit of the glorious eternal song. For me then, how do I hear? I hear in solitude. I believe that solitude is a gateway yet unknown to most in our civilized western culture. It has been said many times that the problem with silence is it speaks too loudly about who we are. If our purpose in meeting together weekly is to encounter Deity, then we must be still enough to hear. I am not sure that we are ready yet to spend a silent hour of time together seeking and listening; silence is radical.
I have read the bible a lot. I have understood little even though I speak as one with insight. I have set the book aside for a season. I have become silent and listened. I am comforted. I am awakened. I am reading the bible.