Set Your Bible Down

August 23rd, 2013

You have permission.

Yes, really, you are allowed to set down the Bible—lovingly, appreciatively, let it go. It has done what it is supposed to do. Through it you have been offered over 2000+ years of what it is like for individuals and communities to listen and respond to God. Now it's your turn.

As a spiritual director I often witness people being invited to let go of the Bible for a period of time. When I mention that invite to them, the look in their eyes wavers between relief and wariness. I see their wheels churning wondering if God is okay with such a thing (even though God is the one doing the inviting, I'm just an observer!). Though the Bible records the faith of folks who never read or heard of a Bible, there are many today who are fearful of such a childlike faith. Rather than try to force or fake time in Scripture, they need to hear this said, “You have permission to not read your Bible.”

Am I anti-Bible? Of course not! It's a brilliant, inspired-by-God book describing how people recognized or didn't recognize the Word of God whether it was spoken, engraved, burning, crucified, or resurrected. It tells of the amazing things people can do (and the sufferings as well) if they hear, follow, and incarnate the Word themselves.

Yet there comes a time when we do not need any more words (even Scriptural ones!), instead we need to trust the ones and One we've already been given. The Bible is not meant to be an end unto itself (even Jesus' work was not an end unto itself). Both will always point us beyond their experiences into our own individual and communal lives, our own lived experience of the living God. It is kind of like a great parent or mentor. The great ones always point beyond themselves that we may become ourselves.

So if you've never had the freedom to set down your Bible, if you're carrying around “shoulds” in regard to Bible-reading, if you're reading it out of duty or superstition, perhaps God is inviting you to listen with your own ears, eyes, heart, and mind. The Bible and over 2000 years of church history lets us know that God speaks in an astonishing variety of ways. It is time to trust that there is a word for you and trust that the Word is with and even in you! Go ahead and set the Bible down. Then watch, you just may be led back with new eyes to see a deeper invitation in the very words you already knew.

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