Beyond the Pages
Learning to Love the Bible.
I was seated on an auditorium bench when my cell phone began to ring. I quickly dove into the recesses of my purse—rifling through the clutter and handing odds and ends to Saori, my housemate from Japan.
First came the sunglasses, then my coin purse, my Bible and an old pack of gum. As I was digging for the next handful, Saori stopped me. "What is this?" she asked, holding my pocket-sized pink leather Bible.
"Oh, that's my Bible," I answered, then went back to excavating my purse in hopes of catching my phone before the last ring.
"A Bible. That is the Christian's holy book, right? Can I look at it?" she said. "I've never seen one before."
I finally clued in to the special moment and turned my attention toward my friend. "You've never seen one before?"
"No, I haven't. Will you tell me what it says?"
I watched her hand lightly smooth the delicate pages as the wind rustled them. I was struck by her sense of awe and reverence toward the book resting in her lap. A moment before, it had been just another object in my purse; now it seemed alive, beautiful.
Maybe you are like me: I know I should love the Bible, and I can say that I have a profound respect for it as the Word of God. But, to be honest, there are long periods of time when I don't even open it up. I often turn to reading it out of a sense of obligation, a box to check, a "should do" motivation rather than a sense of privilege that I "get to" hear from God.
I often find myself wondering, What does it look like to really love the Bible? This question led me to Deborah Foxworth, a self-proclaimed lover of the Word.
Deborah doesn't set any parameters for herself and the Bible. No target number of devotional times, no ideal length, specific spot or ritual. She just opens her Bible whenever she is able. Sometimes it is just enough minutes to meditate on a verse, other times it could be hours before she takes her eyes off the pages. "It is my breath, it's my life, it's my air, and it's my blood—because He is," says Deborah, who embodies a sense of freedom in loving the Word and, ultimately, in loving Jesus.
Gary Fredricks is another friend whom many people, including himself, recognize as a lover of the Word. But unlike Deborah, Gary is a highly structured guy. Every morning, he exercises and then spends time in the Word. For Gary, opening the Bible is a loving discipline. He does it whether he feels like it or not, recognizing that the Scriptures help him deepen his relationship with Jesus.
Two lovers of the Word, two vastly different ways of expressing their love, but one clear principle—it's not about a book at all.
The Bible is not a book to Deborah or Gary—it's a relationship. Each of them goes to the Word to be with Jesus. The way that love is expressed is unique to who they are as people, but the heart motivation is the same. No rules. No expectations. Just Jesus.
Their perspective when opening the Word seems to be like seeing an old friend, one whom you no longer feel the need to impress; the kind of friend with whom you can have a great conversation by simply being in their presence; maybe not even speaking.
I once heard Phil Wroblicky, a pastor in Oregon and a true lover of the Bible, say, "The Bible is the artery to the heart of God." I like that word picture. Again it shows a relationship. The artery carries blood from the heart to the body. It is a major thoroughfare that bears the important traffic of life-giving blood. The Bible is the spiritual artery for God's wisdom, love, comfort, and correction to reach His body, that is, us as Christians. The Bible and the body of Christ are linked in a life-giving relationship.
So to love God I must love the Bible.
At the same time, I am also learning that God doesn't have unreal expectations of my love. In fact, part of His love toward me is teaching me to love Him. In Psalm 119, the writer gushes about his love for the words of God, but in the midst of his faith-filled vows, he struggles to want to love the Word. I can relate to that.
Like the psalmist, I do not have an innate love for the Bible but, out of loving obedience, I can commit to unfold God's Word with His help: "Make me understand the way of Your precepts, so I will meditate on Your wonders" (119:27). Sometimes, I just need to pray, "Make me, teach me and help me love You."
After all, loving the Bible and even the ability to love God are gifts from Him. So I come, desperate as Simon Peter and say, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life" (John 6:68).
Those life-giving words were what my friend Saori was encountering as we opened the Bible together on the auditorium bench. I read aloud from the Gospel of John—adding her name, "For God so loved [Saori] that He gave His only begotten Son, that [if Saori] believes in Him [she] shall not perish, but have eternal life" (3:16).
She listened intently—not because I am an extraordinary reader, but because her Creator was speaking from His heart to hers. A cosmic conversation was happening between them. The item resting on her lap was not a book; it was the beginning of a relationship.