When I was a kid in the Catholic Church, the Bible was a really nice book that sat on my shelf or in the pew pockets next to the Hymnals in mass. I thought the Old Testament was old and the New Testament was new. I made several attempts to read it, starting at the beginning, but never made it past Exodus.
When I was a young adult in college, I saw the Bible as a piece of literature that should be dissected like the novels I was reading. I allowed my teachers and fellow classmates to convince me that it was filled with inconsistencies and false teachings. I made several attempts to read it, starting at the beginning, but never made it past Exodus.
And then I made the decision to enter into a relationship with God and began calling myself a Christian.
It was then that the Bible started to scare me.
As a Christian, I thought I had to be a Bible expert. I thought I had to have all the answers. Even scarier, I thought I had to 100% believe everything the Bible said without question.
There were a couple problems with that:
- I didn't know what the Bible said.
- A lot of what I read, I didn't understand.
How was I to start talking to people about my faith if I didn't know what all I believed? What if they started asking me questions? What if I didn't have answers? What if they convinced me that I was wrong, that this was a sham, and that I was an idiot for believing in some god I'd never seen?
...I'd better not let anyone know I'm a Christian until I have all this stuff figured out, right?
And so I entered into this time of my life where I was a Closet Christian. I went to church. I prayed...a little. I started reading the Bible...a little. I was doing the minimum amount possible and avoiding talking about my faith as much as possible. There wasn't much about my external life that said I believed in what Jesus did for us.
Slowly, so slowly, my faith increased. I started talking about it more. I started writing about it. In so doing, I started to solidify in my mind what I believed. My curiosity to know what the Bible said, and what it meant, grew.
And then God lead me into youth ministry.
I had worked with teenagers for years as a camp councilor. I went to school to become a high school teacher. But I had never worked with teenagers from a spiritual perspective. When you work with people from a spiritual perspective, you really have to rely on God. You realize quickly how ill-equipped you are to understand people and how much you need God's wisdom and guidance.
So when I decided to go to the youth group's summer retreat, I knew I needed extra help. The group was going to cover the book of Acts. I had 30 days to read the book which equated to a chapter a day. I committed to reading every day until I completed the book. Once I did that, I realized that wasn't a crazy commitment. So I kept going, and over the course of the next year, I read the New Testament.
From then on, I developed the discipline of reading regularly. This gave me fuel to ask questions. These gave me content to pray about. This gave me insight into my beliefs. In the pages of the Bible I met God. He spoke to me, and sometimes I listened.
I learned more about the books, the authors, and the origin of the Bible. Those discrepancies and inconsistencies I once saw started to make sense and/or dissolve.
I am by no means a Bible scholar at this point, and I still have questions and things I don't understand. But what I have learned is that I don't have to believe blindly. I don't have to 'just believe' because it is what the Bible says. God wants us to question him. God wants us to go to him and seek answers because it is in the seeking that our faith will be revealed and increased. Any reason for us to go to God is a good reason because it gives us the opportunity to build our relationship with him.
Above all, God wants a relationship with us. Go to him. Seek out the answers to your questions.
For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.