I'm not kidding about that, by the way. I do think of these things as spiritual practices that help connect me to others and to God. Which is what any good spiritual practice does.
One of the essays in Jesus Girls that resonated most powerfully with me was about the sometimes obsessive devotion to daily Bible reading churchy people often feel we must do all the time. In Quick and Powerful, Hannah Faith Notess (who also edited the collection) writes about Bible memorization, the read-the-Bible-in-a-year systems, the highlighted and underlined passages.
Oh, it was all so familiar. In high school we had a special group that met after church to practice our memory verses (which came in this nifty little packet so we could carry them around and practice). I read the whole Bible through at around that same time, starting with the Old Testament since I thought the New Testament, upon which our preacher would expound using the original Greek, would be too hard. Somewhere I still have the red binder in which I painstakingly went through all of the Pauline epistles verse by verse, giving my personal, teen-aged commentary. My Good News Bible is full of highlights and underlines.
In college in InterVarsity, I was introduced to the concept of the Daily Quiet Time. There was much praise at our noon prayer group for a good daily quiet time and requests for God's help in the face of bad ones.
This devotion to devotions has taken different forms in the Episcopal Church. There's the Daily Offices, Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, which treat the pray-er to great swaths of Scripture.
Then there's my bete noire: Lectio Divina which seems to be what all the really spiritual people do. Can't stand it. I've tried numerous times. Can't do it. Just can't. It's not for me.
My Bible reading these days is mostly in sermon prep. One poll of pastors reported in shock that "Seven hundred fifty-six (756 or 72%) of the pastors we surveyed stated that they only studied the Bible when they were preparing for sermons or lessons. This left only 38% who read the Bible for devotions and personal study." I fail to see the problem with that--and what makes you think that I'm not reading the Sunday lections for my personal devotions? Those passages do their work on me just the same as any other parts of the Bible.
I am very glad I did get such a strong background in Scripture, but it has been very hard to let go of the guilt that I'm not as devoted as I used to be. But Notess' essay hit it on the head--at least on my head--when she wrote, "If I was going to read the Bible in any meaningful way, I had to give all those seeds I'd crammed into my mind a little time to sprout. So at eighteen, I put the Bible on the shelf for a while. I took a step back from it, just to see what would happen."
The collect for this Sunday is one of my favorites:
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The "inwardly digest" part is always the best; it makes me happy every time. Finally I get that the happiness comes not only because the image amuses me, but because it's a very freeing thought. I'm still trying to let go of the guilt of not always reading, marking and learning, but to know in my heart and not just my head that inwardly digesting is part of the process too. I am reassured by the thought that perhaps I am not refusing the nourishment that comes from Scripture but savoring the food I've already been given.
I said earlier that "I'm not as devoted as I used to be," but I don't think that's true. I think I'm just as devoted to Scriptures, but finding my way into the practices that best stir me up to love. Certainly that's my hope.
Long one today! Whew! Thanks for reading!