“It’s been a whole year already? Crazy!”
That’s what a colleague wrote to me in an e-mail when I told her that Canadian Mennonite’s Year of Reading Biblically (YORB) had wrapped up and that I was writing my final reflection on the experience.
Yes, it’s been a whole year already. At the end of December 2013, I told readers that I intended to read the whole Bible from cover to cover in 2014.
“Ask me anything about U2’s catalogue or the TV show Breaking Bad and in seconds I’ll give you the answer, with some thoughtful analysis,” I wrote in that first article. “But ask me a question about the Ten Commandments, the minor prophets or the synoptic gospels, and I’ll struggle to give you a coherent response.
“I want to have deep thoughts. I want to ponder my faith a little bit.”
I’m not sure if I’ve had any deep thoughts as a result of reading through the Bible, but the exercise certainly caused me to ponder my faith on a daily basis. That is probably the biggest thing that sticks out for me from 2014: Because I was spending time reading the Bible, my thoughts regularly turned to God and whatever I had read that day.
It was also meaningful for me to be proactive about my faith. In the few years prior to 2014, I felt like I hadn’t been maturing in my faith. I had done a lot of work on myself physically and mentally in 2012 and 2013, losing 100 pounds
(45 kilograms) in the process. Spending more time with God was the priority for 2014, and through reading the Bible I was able to do that.
This wasn’t just my Year of Reading Biblically, though. When I wrote that first article in December 2013, I invited anyone who was interested to join me.
It’s difficult for me to know exactly how many people participated, but if I had to guess, I would say at least 25 people attempted it.
This past August in Young Voices, I wrote about five people who were in the midst of reading through the Bible like I was. Here are two more stories, one of someone who didn’t make it, and one of someone who did.
Abandoned after a few books
Paul Loewen is the youth pastor of Douglas Mennonite Church in Winnipeg. The 28-year-old had read through the Bible numerous times before attempting the cover-to-cover, a-few-chapters-each-day approach of YORB.
Loewen made it a few books in before abandoning it. This had to do with his schedule—he and his wife have three young sons under the age of five—combined with the short amount of text allotted each day. Diving into the text for just a few chapters didn’t seem as worthwhile as the time a few years ago when he read the Bible for 30 to 40 minutes each day to reach his goal of reading through it in two months.
The shorter amounts of text also made it tempting for him to skip days. Because a daily reading typically only took 10 minutes, Loewen thought he could easily make it up if he missed a day.
He also says that the chapter and verse numbers in Bible, as well as the headings, can make for an encyclopedic reading experience and prevent him from fully melting into the story, the way he believes the Bible’s authors intended.
In the past, he has taken entire books of the Bible and formatted them on his computer without numbers and headings.
“There’s flow there, there’s logic, there’s structure behind it,” Loewen says. “In reading the whole Bible . . . it’s fantastic, because you see these threads [throughout].”
‘I like the daily connection’
For Ian Epp of Eigenheim Mennonite Church, Rosthern, Sask., participating in YORB meant he was able to read through the Bible in a year for the second time in his life.
Epp (no relation to me) read through the Bible some days, and on other days his work as a farmer led him to “read” the Bible by listening to an audiobook version while he was working in the fields, particularly during busy times like seeding and harvest seasons.
“The kind of farming stuff I was doing was monotonous and didn’t require a lot of thinking once I was set up,” says the 24-year-old Saskatoon resident. “It was nice to take [the Bible audiobook] in for an hour or two. . . . You notice slightly different things in the Word when you listen to it like that.”
When you’re reading it, Epp says, sometimes you’re so focussed on ploughing through and getting your daily reading done that you end up missing a lot of what’s there. “By listening to it, I could slowly sit back and let the words wash over me.”
Knowing that his wife Kirsten was also reading through the Bible kept Epp going throughout the year. They often discussed what they were reading and gently teased one another when they fell behind.
“There was that commitment of, I can’t fall too far behind because I know I’ll get bugged about it,” Epp says with a laugh. “It’s that extra motivation.”
Epp believes that Bible reading is important, but often falls by the wayside. He plans to read through the Bible in its entirety again in a few years.
“In the busyness of everyday life, I like the daily connection,” he says.
* * *
I hesitate to tell anyone that they should read the Bible, but I do think most of us could stand to spend more time with Scripture than we already do. Maybe you didn’t participate in A Year of Reading Biblically. Maybe reading the Bible cover to cover, a little bit each day, isn’t your thing.
That’s fine. But if you really want to get to know God better, spending time reading the Bible is one of the best ways to do that. So find a way of reading Scripture that works well for you.
It may take some discipline at first, but in the end it’s unlikely you’ll regret spending that time with God.
—Posted Jan. 28, 2015
In the YORB series see also:
Part 2- Time for what’s important
Part 3- It’s God’s story
Part 4- Important reminders
Part 5- Getting back on track
Part 9- Drawn to the story