Reading with wonder

Reading the Bible used to feel like a drag to Walter Canter. He found reinvigorated joy when he let his curiosity, and the Holy Spirit, guide him.

I used to wish I was the sort of person who would make plans, use checklists, and get into rhythms to read through the Bible every year. I tried. I made plans that mixed New and Old Testament readings. I followed the daily lectionary, which covers the whole Bible in two years. None of it clicked with me. Instead, it felt like I was forcing my way through the words. It felt like drag. So, reading the Bible became a chore.

I went through a phase where, other than the Scripture I needed to read for my work, I was not spending time with the Word. I couldn’t reconcile my deep belief that Scripture contains the good news of God and the heavy-eye dryness of my personal reading.

It took me a while to realize that my method of reading the Bible was hurting my relationship with it. I was approaching Scripture the way I approach long-distance running. As I read, I would push toward the finish, working through the task like it was a pain, an obstacle. This was not a spiritually fulfilling way to engage a holy text (it is a great way to crush a 22-mile trail run though).

When I let go of the idea that reading the Bible was something to accomplish and, instead, engaged the Word as the source of good news, I found reading Scripture to be fulfilling. I realized I needed to let myself be open to the wonderings of the Holy Spirit in my personal devotion.

So when I was preparing for a sermon and felt a sudden urge to read 1 Chronicles because of an obscure reference, I began to spend time reading 1 Chronicles. I leaned into my curiosity. For about two months, 1 and 2 Chronicles were all I read in my personal study time. Some days I read chapter after chapter, other days just a few verses and then sat looking out the window for ten minutes, but I read every day. The experience renewed my sense of wonder in the Bible. I allowed the words to sink into me, allowed the stories to disturb and confuse and comfort and inspire. I gave myself permission to ask stupid questions. I looked up some answers to questions in the Bible Dictionary, but other questions I let linger … and that felt right. It was wonderful. It was literally a reading full of wonder.

I leaned into my curiosity. … Some days I read chapter after chapter, other days just a few verses and then sat looking out the window for ten minutes, but I read every day.

Then I got to the end of 2 Chronicles. Without hesitation, I dove into 1 Peter. Why 1 Peter? I haven’t the slightest clue, but I devoured it. And the chain continued on, bouncing from obsession to obsession, reinvigorating my love of these words, the power of these words, the play and wonder and my curiosity in these words, these living, breathing, crazy, wonderful, powerful words.

There is no single ‘right’ way to read Scripture. There is a single Spirit who moves through us and moves us into the text in a way that sparks joy and meaning to each of us. Reading through the Bible on a year or two-year cycle is a beautiful practice for many Christians. If that is your gravy, keep it up; that’s awesome. It’s been a long time since I last read the Bible cover to cover, and that’s okay. Because right now, I’m following my curiosity, and in each reading, the word lives inside me.