Wednesday, April 7, 2010

My Bible

Today I opened my Bible for the first time in a long time. I'm not even sure I remember when the last time I opened it was. I don't carry it to church anymore because I've got so much to carry already, and because they always show the verses on the screen anyway. But I haven't opened it at home in a long time either ... It just seems like I never have time. I know that the truth is that I haven't made time. It is true, also, that I am very busy these days with the girls and with Private Ryan shipping out so soon ... but surely there is time to open the thin pages of the Bible each day, even if for just a minute? I need to make more time.

Today at breakfast it was like I could hear my Bible calling me. I could almost feel the pages in my hands, the weight of the book, see the tiny print of the pages. I walked down the hall while Piglet sat at the kitchen table in her chair. She fussed because I was out of sight, but because I was alone with her I hurried and when I got back to the table she was happy to see me. I opened the book and was ashamed because I had two bookmarks between the pages ... and it took me a minute to remember which one was the one marking my current place.

I got it figured out, began to read, and immediately I felt a sense of peace, a sense of relief. I felt ... right. I felt at home, as if I'd been away for a long time and finally had wandered through doors I hadn't seen in ages. And I was stressing hard. Thinking of Private Ryan leaving, thinking of the long months ahead of me where I will be alone with the children and solely responsible for their safety and well-being. What if I am not able to hold it together? What if I am impatient with them needlessly? What if my stress makes our house feel rushed and chaotic instead of calm and in control? So much to worry about in the new world of Army life where everything is new and unfamiliar to me ...

Another shame ... I started last year with the goal of reading the Bible cover to cover, and at this point, I am in the book of Judges. That isn't very far. But as I read this morning, I felt like God was speaking to me, instructing me, reassuring me. The book of Judges is about a time when Israel was often taken in by the pagan religions of the day, often susceptible to idolatry and prostitution. Those extreme circumstances seem so far from my life, but are they really? I too, live in a world where people do whatever they want, whenever they want, often without a care for the people around. Humans today co-exist ... but are we really a community? A family? No, we aren't. We are selfish, and we are all idolaters. We may not bow down to wooden or metal statues and idols ... but we obey the very whim of our cell phones, blackberries, emails, and internet websites. We "have" to check our emails, our voicemails, our facebook. What message would God be sending you, if you were checking?

In the book of Judges, he sent Israel this message, "Pay attention! We made a deal, and you aren't holding up your end of the bargain!" Because of this, He withdrew His protection of the Israelite people. He gave them over to their enemies, and over and over they were taken hostage and ruled over by other nations. When they would tire of the oppression, they would repent ... they would apologize and cry out to God to save them, and He would. He would raise up a "judge" among the people, a Godly man who would walk the right path and lead the people back to a closeness with God. This judge would save the people from their oppression, and God would protect and guide them. But once the judge was dead and gone, the people would return to idols and the more common religions of the day. The cycle continued many times.

I think it is this way with all of us. So often we "forget" about God. Maybe not totally, but we rest assured that He is there for us, that He will fulfill His promises ... what we really forget is our part of the bargain. He offers to protect us and guide us, but we are to love and obey Him in exchange. As a thank-you, a gesture of gratitude. It isn't really such a foreign concept ... don't we expect this of our children also, that they love, respect, and obey us simply we birthed them and because we have loved and protected them? We forget that a relationship with God is a two-way street, and that even though His love for us is unconditional even beyond the love we have for our own children, we also are deserving of punishment when we are wrong.

Are we then "given over" to our "enemies"? To fear? To worry? To finances? To family obligation? To a loss of our sense of self ... But Jesus was our "judge", He came to teach us and guide us, to bring us back to our God. And God is there, waiting to rescue us from our various forms of oppression.

As I read the very first verse on my page this morning, I checked the footnotes as is my habit. And just imagine, in the midst of stress and so much worry these days, I found this among the notes: "If we attempt to meet life's challenges with human effort alone, we will find the pressures and temptations around us too great to resist."

I am thankful that I do not have to resist the pressures of my world on my own. Sure, I have my best friend to talk to about my worries, I have other blogs to pick up tidbits of information and reassurance, and I have Private Ryan's company for a few more days. But above all that, I have God, always there beside me ... ready to lift me up when I fall, carry my when my strength is gone, and help me clean up the messes I make in my human-ness.

I hate that it took me so long to "find" time to open my Bible again ... but I'm glad it finally was able to shout loud enough through the noise for me to hear and answer. I can't believe how much I've missed being lost in those pages, and I didn't even realize it until I found my way back. Imagine what we miss each day simply because we aren't paying attention.

Luke 15:20-24
So he got up and went to his father. "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. "The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' 
"But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.