This winter, my brother The Thief
proposed a challenge for himself -- and anyone else who wished to try it. (For those who wish to read the original blog post, the date was January 20.) I am up for a good challenge, and so I decided to join. The challenge? Reading the entire Bible through during Lent.
Lots of people asked where I would find the time to read the entire Bible in 40 days. This amounted to 30 chapters a day, beginning in Genesis and ending in Revelation, with Sundays off. Frankly, when I am quite interested in a book that I've checked out from the library, I can read it in a day or two. (Usually these are riveting fiction books -- often in the mystery category -- but still!) I can make time to read if I want to.
Thus began my Lenten journey. Instead of "giving something up" for Lent, I took something on. (Of course, this led to "giving up" recreational reading, which completely vanished for the period, to instead focus on my new discipline.) The plan that worked best for me was to do my reading in and among my housework in the morning, and then, when the boys were upstairs for their naptime, to finish whatever reading I hadn't already completed -- before I was allowed to start working on "projects."
Because it's spring, the season is starting on the Prairie, and everyone wants their clothing finished, this meant that I had to get cracking in order to work on people's clothing. Sometimes I would start the next day's reading before I went to sleep at night.
I started a few days early, and only once didn't complete my reading in the given day -- a Saturday, when I started sewing in the morning because the guys were gone and then we had a church dinner that night -- but was able to borrow a little of Sunday to finish it. I finished on schedule, the Wednesday before Easter.
It took about an hour and a half per day for reading. I used Eugene Peterson's The Message
for my reading for a couple of reasons. First, as a paraphrase rather than an actual translation, I thought it would be easier to read -- you know, modern language and all. Second, I figured this version, less familiar to me than the ones I usually use (NIV, NASB mostly), and as I tend to skim when I'm reading familiar passages, I wanted to try to make sure I would read a little more closely.
So. In the end, a challenge like this, just done to get it done, isn't worth much. What did I get from it? Did I learn anything? Do I have anything to "take away" from the Lenten Bible Reading Challenge?
- 1. I do have time to do whatever I choose. It's all about priorities. This is not said to shame anyone else who didn't find the time or was unable to finish. This is said as a point for me. It's all about what I make time for. (And during Lent, I didn't do much cleaning around the house...)
- Reading through the Bible from start to finish is a great way to get the "Big Picture". Many times I have tried to read it through on a "plan" that included a little bit of the Old Testament, a little bit of the New Testament, and a little from Psalms (a typical one-year Bible plan). It turns out that just doesn't work for me. Reflecting on the fact that I like to organize my closet by color as well as type of garment, and that I used to shelf my books alphabetically by author (and by order of publication within the author), is it a surprise that I prefer reading the Bible in the order it's published? No jumping around for me. While I realize that the books are not in order in the Bible chronologically, I don't like jumping around, and this exercise certainly involved no jumping. And when things came up in Obadiah that I recognized from earlier, it made a lot more sense. The major and minor prophets wrote a lot about the exile of the Israelite people -- when I just read about it in another book, while a little repetitious, it makes more sense. once again, Big Picture.
- Reading the Gospels and other books written by different people give different "flavors" to the stories and passages. When the paraphrase is compiled by one guy -- with consultation from others, to be sure -- some of the flavor is lost. I missed that. I also found that I didn't care as much for the contemporary language as I thought. It just didn't "sound right", possibly because I've been so familiar with the actual translations. (A few times I thought about switching to one of my "regular" Bibles but decided to finish in The Message if only for the completion factor. Aside from liking things "in order," I also have a compulsion to "finish".) Peterson himself would say this isn't a substitute for a regular Bible translation, but that it's a good place start or a nice addition.
- I found neat stuff that I either don't remember having read before or had never really comprehended before. I have read the Bible through before, but over a several-year time period, and never as an adult. Ezekiel (aside from the weird wheel thing) was a pretty interesting book. Ezekiel 18 was great. Psalm 119 sometimes doesn't get a fair shake because it's sooooooo long. (Hey, what's 150 verses when you're reading 30 chapters???) It's a really good chapter.
- I feel like, with the "Big Picture" I have a better grasp of "THE BIBLE" as a whole. Far from a full understanding, of course, but better. It is an ongoing, developing story, whether narrative, prophetic, poetic, or just downright crazy. When you read it "all at once" it's a lot easier to follow the story.
- I didn't study what I was reading. i just read it. I tried to read it closely enough that I wouldn't re-read a passage a few times with no memory of having read it, but in order to finish, I couldn't really spend a lot of time on it. Study is for a different challenge. Read and study the Pauline letters during Lent? Study the Gospels during Lent? There are many study options to take on another time.
Will I do it again? Maybe in a long time. Not next week.
Would I recommend it to others? Yes. It was a great exercise and experience. But not to those who would "beat themselves up" for "failing". I wouldn't see not completing it as a failure, but simply as not finishing.
Would I use the same Bible? No. Next time I do it I'll use one of the translations.
Ha. I just said "Next time." It makes me chuckle. Last week i said "Never again." It might be like The Thief, who, upon finishing a marathon, said, "I never want to do this again"... until he decided to do another marathon.
Right now, I'm reading other books. But because I've gotten accustomed to reading "hard" stuff, I'm finding it easier to read things that don't move quite as quickly as my favorite Susan Wittig Albert
book. I recently finished Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford
(a little slow for the reader of a quick mystery novel, but fun all the same) and am now reading the 500+ page Reminiscences of Levi Coffin
. (I do plan to hit the library soon for something a little more fun.)
So. I read the Bible through during Lent. Now I need to go do some laundry.