Reading the Bible is fun. I’m mid-way through Deuteronomy as I write this, and I’ve really come to look forward to my daily Bible reading.

In the Jan. 29 issue of Canadian Mennonite, I lamented that it’s difficult to read with fresh eyes stories I’ve seemingly heard millions of times before, and while that has been the case sometimes, re-reading stories I’m already familiar with has also been part of the fun.

From Adam and Eve to Joseph and his brothers, tracing the connections from story to story and reading about the formation of the Israelite people in Genesis has been interesting because you read about God working through a particular people.

Of course, I’m reading through the Bible knowing that, as weird as the stories sometimes get, and as angry as God gets, I know that God is up to something good.

But many people have been turned off from Christianity because they read the Old Testament and were horrified by the stories they read. A friend of mine told me that one of his non-Christian friends once picked up the Bible to read through it. She didn’t get much further than Genesis 19, in which Abraham’s nephew Lot is seduced by his daughters so that he can bear them children.

Stories like this are evidence that if you know a non-Christian who is interested in hearing about the Lord, you shouldn’t just hand them a Bible and say, “Read this.”

Indeed, during a recent discussion about biblical literacy of which I was a part, someone pointed out, “If you don’t come to the Bible with a spiritual outlook, it’s going to be crap. You have to have a divine encounter first. Then you will see God at work in the stories.”

I like telling stories. It’s what I do for a living. Whenever something happens to me, I craft that incident in my head into a story I can tell my friends so that we can all laugh about it later. Or I’m going through the incident in my head and drawing whatever meaning I can out of it.

It’s important to carefully choose who or what we are putting at the centre of our stories, though. Two weeks ago, I re-read “This is Water,” a commencement speech the late, acclaimed writer David Foster Wallace gave in 2005. “Everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute centre of the universe, the realest, most vivid and important person in existence,” Wallace said.

We rarely talk about this basic self-centredness because it’s so socially repulsive, Wallace continued, but it’s pretty much the same for all of us: “It is our default-setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: There is no experience you’ve had that you were not at the absolute centre of. The world as you experience it is right there in front of you. . . . Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real. You get the idea.”

Life, Wallace suggests, is about chal-lenging this way of thinking in order to live a compassionate life.

“It’s a matter of my choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default setting, which is to be deeply and literally self-centred, and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self.”

As A Year of Reading Biblically continues, I’m choosing to be aware that it’s not just my story I’m living day in and day out; it’s God’s story.

As with the stories of Adam and Eve and the Israelites before me, God is up to something today. The challenge is to stop thinking only about myself long enough to perhaps discern what that something is.

--Posted March 12, 2014

See also:

Part 1- A Year of Reading Biblically starts now (Dec. 16, 2013)

Part 2- Time for what’s important (Feb. 3, 2014) 

To join Aaron in reading through the Bible in 2014, see Daily Guide for A Year of Living Biblically: Part 1 (Dec. 16, 2013)

Follow on Twitter- follow @aaronepp  #yorb14