When I first left Germany, the kids and I landed in Colorado. My grandmother had given us her empty house for three weeks. I tried to keep things upbeat but I was drowning inside. We borrowed a car here and there; we walked to church; I fruitlessly tried to find another place to live. But during this time, I made the most of it with the children. We went to Focus on the Family and I took them to “Whit’s End”. While there, I shopped in the bookstore and bought a new Bible. I had been reading the TNIV for several years (to the seminary peep’s chagrin). It reminded me that God “counted” me as one of his children. I know scholars say the translation has problems but I desperately needed to know that women were a part of God’s plan. But while in Colorado, I ditched the TNIV (it was falling apart) for an ESV. I needed something new and fresh. I needed to come to the Word with a clean slate. I had studied a bit about Malachi and learned that the ESV has a very close translation to the Hebrew of the controversial chapter two. I was sold. Upon opening this brand new Bible, I deflated. I did not feel like Jesus was talking to me. And behind every sentence in the New Testament were the lies of the ‘c’hurch. All of their commentary were ringing in my mind, leaving a bad taste in my mouth and causing me doubt again. I just could not do it. It is comical now but, I remember actually hearing my old pastor’s voice in my head whenever I would read the red letters. Good heavens. Jesus’ voice was actually my old pastor’s voice in my mind. That is a little crazy. But, in that condemning tone, Jesus had a hard voice . . . a voice that was against me . . . a voice that told me I was not good enough . . . and that I was only a woman. It was compassionless. It spoke only of depravity with no balance of dignity. It was life-taking. And joyless.
So, I put the Bible away for a good month, finally coming back to it only to read very obscure passages that no one had “touched”. Like minor prophets. And certain passages in Isaiah. In fact, I liked Isaiah so much, I camped out there for three months. Three months. We do the best we can do. Sometimes, we can do nothing. But, we know that we love God and we want to know the God that loves us and thought we were worth dying for. That place where we are caught . . . where maybe we cannot pray or where we cannot sing . . . or read His Word . . . God meets us there. He meets us in that “Stream of Grace”, as Jeff S calls it. And He takes our hand . . . or He holds us . . . until we are ready to move forward. And that takes time. And don’t you know that God met me there in the minor prophets? I saw a God, for the first time, who cherished freedom for His people; a God who hated when others took that freedom away; a God who valued life and all people. I went from there. And I consciously removed the tone of voice I had attributed to Jesus in my mind. And I began to really hear Him.
Over time, I started reading other passages again. I asked God for a clean slate. He removed presuppositions and the Word became exciting. I cautiously popped over to the New Testament again. But, I could not go to the Epistles. That was where the “New Testament Law for the Church” had been created in my life. That was where beautiful letters written to different people groups in different eras for “such a time as this” had become the NEW LAW. That was where I was told to be quiet . . . not to look pretty . . . That was where I had learned that my body belonged to my ex husband and he could do whatever he wanted with it . . . where I had been taught that I was sub-human. There was no place for me in God’s plan when it came to the Epistles.
It was not too long ago that Jeff S suggested I start reading Philippians in The Message. I admit I took another few months before I even tried. I was scared, people. I was learning about God for the first time in my life and I did NOT want it ruined by a bunch of laws.
I finally gave it a go. And I found joy there. A lot of freshness and rejoicing. And the words were so different that there was no way to hear my ex’s voice . . . or a pastor’s voice . . . or a seminary professor’s voice because, the beauty of it was, they do not use nor like The Message (mischievous smile). I read Philippians over and over that week. I relished the new-found life-giving words.
I still struggle sometimes. There are a few books of the New Testament that I will only presently read in The Message version. Or I will read something in the ESV and then I just HAVE to know what The Message says. It has served me well.
This is how I have been able to gradually read the Word of God. But, I know that there are those who still cannot . . . and that is OK. God knows. He gets it. He knows that we cannot stay away forever because His love draws us in. He is pretty irresistible that way! But I know He does not mind the time away. He is always a gentleman. Never pushes or prods. Only loves.