For years I struggled…okay fought against, God’s call to read His word.
I had grown up in church, ‘knew all the stories’ and did not feel that this particular command for (us,) to read His word included me (that was for those who did not go to church…for those who did not hear the Golden Book version of Easter as a child, and for those who could not finish the words to this song: “Zacchaeus was a wee little man…”).
Besides all my preexisting ‘knowledge’ of God and His Word, God knew I did not have time, did not enjoy reading and could hardly focus when I was “forced to read” (nothing like a good book to knock me out at night)!
I honestly cannot say for how many years God had been calling, while I was too busy, too stubborn-hearted (too sinful) to answer. Though ironically my cries to God at night were to know Him more, to follow His will and to hear His voice. Blinded.
Funny how when you are ‘in it’, you cannot see it.
This war within my heart went on for years with me turning a blind eye to it, unaccepting, unwilling to see the truth of it.
It wasn’t until our Associate Pastor Jeff preached a sermon directly to me, (though he was unaware) called, “Knowing God Intimately” in late December of 2010, that God reached into my heart and squeezed it, till I cried for mercy and gave in.
Pastor Jeff had said, “How can you KNOW God, if you do not read HIS Word?”. He also said much more to solidify this truth, but this was it… This was all I needed to hear. I knew he was right and I realized then, that I had been fighting this truth for way too long. Before I left the sanctuary that night, I had made a plan to purchase a “One Year” Bible and to start reading each morning, the following week (which just happened to be the first week of 2011).
Come Monday, I did what I had vowed to do and though I was excited to see what God had in store, I had to fight against my own doubts… My schedule truly was quite full and squeezing just one more ‘thing’ into it, had not been in ‘my’ plan. However, I also knew that God would bless my faithfulness, so I planned to wake extra early each morning (around 5AM) to read. I couldn’t go to sleep any earlier and already lacked in rest BUT I just knew God would take care of it (and He did).
The first morning I sat to read, I was overcome. Keep in mind that I was reading from the beginning (starting with Genesis 1:1)…nothing I did not ‘know’ already, nothing ‘earth shattering’ or really heart wrenching right? Wrong.
I knew the story of Adam and Eve. I knew about the fall in the Garden. But I did not know God like I thought I did. A knife to the heart could not have brought me to my knees quicker.
I read for about 30 minutes that morning and prayed for another 45. I begged God to forgive my stubborn heart and thanked Him for His unending mercies. Tears flowed like a river that day (and for many months to follow) as I finally realized He had been trying to answer my own prayer to do His will and I had refused to follow His lead.
I finished my “One Year” Bible about 14 months after I started (I was not going to let a few unexpected life events put me off, God does not care if it takes me 12 months or 36 months…I was right on His schedule). I still cannot quote scripture and am no theologian, but I don’t think that is what God had asked of me. He simply wanted me to obey and to take His gift. I cannot explain in words what exactly transpires during my quiet mornings, reading God’s word. But that’s the miracle of it. There are times when what I hear are not the words I am reading on the page, they are the words God knows I need to hear.
“Oh Lord, forgive my stubborn heart.”
I cannot count how many times I have prayed this, though I know He has already answered. God does not need for me to read. He does not need a thing from me, in fact he does not ‘need’ me at all. I need Him. I had cut myself short of His blessing for so long and my life showed…no, let’s be honest, my life screamed it. My marriage was falling apart, my oldest (at only 5 years old) was pulling away from me and each day I felt like I was sinking…drowning… gasping for air and pleading for God to save me.
I could not understand what ‘good’ could come of the trials and though I could have been looked at as the innocent victim of hard times, I was the one standing in the way of God’s blessing. I was the disobedient child asking for help, though unwilling to take it…“Oh Lord, forgive my stubborn heart.”
I still read each morning, though now I am reading a ‘regular’ Bible (not the one-year format). Actually it is a devotional Marriage Bible that Ron and I both had bought copies of when we were engaged…My oh my, would that have saved me some heartache, had I actually started reading it back then! Sigh… History is history and today is new.
I cherish my times alone, searching through God’s word. In fact, I have made it a wonderful routine, a treat that I look forward to each morning. I hop out of bed, grab a quick cup of coffee and a breakfast bar, grab my Bible and my highlighter, (though I’m not sure what the point is of the highlighter…the whole thing is bright yellow now) and hop right back into bed to read until I feel as though I have my fill. Then I pray.
That said, I am not immune to chaos (in fact I unintentionally invite it in, I think ), so I may not have the ability to read every day (kids wake too early, I wake too late, etc) though these days are few and far between as there is a Peace… a breath of fresh air, in starting the day by literally putting God first. The days I miss out on my time with God? It’s like running on the treadmill, while eating a donut. Not productive.
I pray for you as you read this. I do not know your heart, your history or where God is calling in your life, but I beg you to not turn away. God calls His children… The creator of the universe CALLS us! And without ceasing, even when we don’t answer. However, the time wasted is not His, it’s ours. We are the fool for turning the blind eye… I could have saved myself (and my family) a lot of heartache had I answered His call, years back. Though I am thankful for His mercy today… With eyes set on Him, praying with a heart of obedience (even if His response is not what I had anticipated it to be), trusting that His will is greater than my own and faithful in His promise.