Take a moment to think about the relationship you’ve had with scripture in different seasons of your life—as a child, adolescent, young adult, in recent years, etc. Perhaps at times scripture has been a source of joy and encouragement, and at others, challenge or confusion. Perhaps you’ve had seasons of devouring the text and others where it’s been a struggle. Perhaps you had opinions about the Bible before you came to Christ or years where you walked away from God. The contours of our relationship to scripture over time can tell a story of our growth and relationship to God in these seasons.
The early years of my life were filled with scripture memorization. From ages five to seven, I went to weekly programs at the church my family attended, where I was rewarded for reciting memory verses with badges and pins. I think I enjoyed the competition factor as much as actually learning the bible. In the car, my family used to listen to cassette tapes by GT and the Halo Express, about an angel named GT (“Good Tidings”) who would help kids through their problems by singing bible verses while his band, The Halo Express, played along. I learned many verses this way and can still remember some of those songs today.
In eighth grade, I decided to read my bible every night before bed, which I kept up until about halfway through my freshman year of college, when I realized the discipline had lost its luster and felt more like a chore. As a 19-year-old taking a full course load at a Christian college with chapel three times a week, church on Sundays, courses in Bible and theology, and various other worship activities, I felt like I was drinking from a fire hose of scripture. It was hard to muster enthusiasm for personal devotions on top of everything, especially if it meant losing sleep. So I took a break.
This bold exercise of freedom felt strange. I felt guilty and wondered whether I was being rebellious. I confided in a close friend that I had stopped doing daily devotions, and he said it was ok because scripture should be read and studied in community. Americans over-individualize spiritual growth, he said. I think he had a point, but the notion of never returning didn’t sit well.
Since college, there have been many more seasons, to be sure—stretches of greater or lesser consistency, times of intense longing to hear God speaking to me and others where I didn’t listen as well. I sometimes think of these many seasons in sequence, strung together like lights above a patio. Reflecting on each one, I can see how the work God did in my life was (and still is) enabled by my connection to scripture, whether it was through game-like memorization as a child, grit-your-teeth-and-stick-with-it discipline as a teenager, or discovering incarnational community as a young adult. The further I’ve come, the more I’ve desired companionship with the Living Word who doesn’t change but who changes me.
What about you? As you reflect on the seasons God has brought you through, what do you think has been the impact of your engagement with scripture? No matter how near or far you’ve found (or find) yourself from scripture, know that His love for you and His Word will always remain. Spend time in the Word today and ask God to reveal who He is and who you are in light of Him.