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Following Jesus

On Again, Off Again: My Relationship with the Bible

April 25, 2019 by

photo of a page of the BibleI must have been six or seven years old when I received my first Bible. The 10-point font Revised Standard Version was prohibitively illegible to eyes only accustomed to Dick and Jane. My mom sewed a deep maroon cloth cover, hand-embroidered with gold, which looked very handsome on top of my dresser. I never cracked the spine. I didn’t have to. My younger brothers owned a garish comic-strip version of the Old Testament which we had virtually memorized – “Don’t cry baby Joash, one day you will be king” – and my dad occasionally read his Scofield Reference Bible aloud with all the interesting footnotes.

Maroon and gold cover notwithstanding, my Bible eventually worked its way to the bottom of the pile of books on my dresser. It had to bear the weight of many a teenage novel. Add a few more years and it was contending with Nietzsche, Kant, Hegel, and Ayn Rand.

Through a series of close calls, dangerous scrapes, and miracles, I found myself with my still unused Bible in a semi-cloistered convent on the edge of the Sonoran desert. Every day the sisters set aside a few hours for silence, and every month a few days were reserved for study and prayer. I spent many a silent day with G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, George MacDonald, and a Greek interlinear New Testament, hoping I could get as close to the original as possible. But I was definitely more comfortable in the company of those great British writers, the Inklings – kettle on the hob, pipes lit, discussing Plato and beauty – than with my Bible.

I was definitely more comfortable in the company of the Inklings – kettle on the hob, pipes lit, discussing Plato and beauty – than with my Bible.

The maroon cover was no match for the two monsoon seasons it endured with me in Southeast Asia. When I packed my suitcase for a drier country, I discovered that the sidelined Bible of my youth was covered in thick mold. The nostalgia was short-lived. Now I use a New Revised Standard Version that I picked up from a pile of second-hand Bibles donated for prison ministry.

Recently I found myself with extra time on my hands. Thanks to the spring weather, the swamp behind our house has come alive with frogs, polliwogs, a pair of mallards – even an American Bittern – and nothing can persuade my kids indoors. Here’s the time you’ve always wanted to read the Bible! I settled on the Gospel of Luke because I hadn’t gone beyond the Christmas story in December and I’ve always preferred the shock factor of Luke’s lean and mean version of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are you who are poor . . . woe to you who are rich.” and Luke 8:14, “. . . they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.” There are no loopholes and there’s no wiggle room for philosophizing it away as symbolic of something or other. Instead it is clear: “. . . what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).

I started at Luke 2:41 with the boy Jesus in the temple and plowed through to the very last verse with his apostles back in that same temple, joyfully and continuously blessing God after Jesus’ ascension. The experience of actually sitting and reading my Bible was completely spell-binding and thrilling. I was hanging on His words like the people in the temple (Luke 19:48). It profoundly challenged my actions, my attitudes, and my general approach to life, for “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it” (Luke 17:33).

The experience of actually sitting and reading my Bible was completely spell-binding and thrilling. I was hanging on His words like the people in the temple.

Now I want to get others to try it. I know many people who are regular students of the Bible. They do this sort of reading all the time, so in that sense, I guess my discovery is hardly noteworthy. But on the other hand, perhaps there’s another busy mom reading this – “. . . Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary” (Luke 10:41–42) – who also needs a nudge to check out and read a gospel. “And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. . . . Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you” (Luke 12:29–31).

Here’s a little more of the treatment I got: “. . . Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). “And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? . . . I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily” (Luke 18:7–8).

Coming back full circle, now my kids are getting into Old Testament stories. Theirs may not be a garish comic-strip Bible, but they also enjoy alternative modes of storytelling. So I'd like to share their current favorite, and their dad’s preferred delivery, a la American musician Don Francisco.

Johann Bazeley’s cover of Don Francisco’s “Jehoshaphat”:

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About the author

Jordanna

Jordanna Bazeley

Jordanna Bazeley lives at Spring Valley Community with her husband, Johann, and their four children, as well as Kizzie the...

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