My parents were devoted to the United Pentecostal Church they joined shortly after getting married. So much so that because the church was transitioning between pastors when I was a year old, I was dedicated not once but twice – by both pastors. My mom likes to tell the story of my first dedication. While holding me in his arms the pastor began reading a scripture from the bible. I grabbed the mic from him and began giving my own dedication.
I joke it was then, at my dedication, my biblical aversion was born.
My parents read the bible religiously; they strongly believe in the stories and refer to it as The Word. They are even avid participants in bible study groups. But I can’t remember a single time that we, as a family, would have a night where we would sit around the table and read the bible together. I’d heard from my other church friends this was a typical practice in their homes. Despite my parent’s love of the bible, they didn’t share it with me the way they did their bible study friends. On rare occasions, my dad would read stories from the bible to help me cope with specific situations, as they would arise during my school age years. But I never looked up scripture “just because”, or read passages to gain a deeper understanding of God’s word. What I knew about the bible always came from someone else’s mouth, never from personal searching.
Being raised United Pentecostal, most of my life revolved around church culture and following the holiness standards. I had the long, uncut hair, and I wore the long skirts every day. But some things I just wouldn’t do. No way were you going to see me participating in Bible Quizzing. I didn’t understand what was so important about it. For most kids, it was an honor to be on the team – to travel and compete against other churches to prove how much smarter you are; to boast your ability to speedily regurgitate things you probably didn’t even understand.
At some point during middle school, the Sunday school staff wanted all of us to have the books of the bible memorized, so my escape was short lived. I was a good student though so I employed my memorization skills and when it came time to be tested – in front of the entire class - I was the only one able to successfully recite them in order. I remember getting a prize and thinking it was a strange thing to be rewarded for. How is being able to blurt out scripture from the bible or quickly sing the books in order prize-worthy? What is it really doing for me aside from teaching me how to memorize? And what about memorizing things from this ancient book makes me better than someone else?
Memorizing doesn’t equal understanding.
To this day I can’t quote scriptures, but I share what is in my heart, and I’d like to think my heart makes God smile.
I had a handful of bibles gifted to me throughout my young life, but in high school, I decided to buy my own. I thought my disconnection was because I didn’t have a translation I could easily understand. I went to the Christian bookstore and bought the really cool bible with a notes section and daily reading plan so you could read the entire bible. I was motivated and I planned to read it all the way through – from Genesis to Revelation – and I liked that I was only in competition with myself.
It was tougher than I anticipated. I got through maybe five books. I got lost in the book where the scriptures are just a list of names. Don’t get me wrong; I understand the importance of genealogy. I’ve gone to Genealogy libraries and spent full weekends linking new branches to my family tree. But in the bible, the list of names tracked back to two people. So is the bible implying we are all incestual beings? Gross. I got distracted and never finished the reading plan.
As I get older, my aversion to the bible has gotten stronger. The Red Letter editions really get me. Millions quote them. Millions live by them. These are the words Jesus said, but how do we know they were truly spoken by his lips? Were you there? Did you see his mouth move and form these words? My issue lies in that there are too many translations and people of supposed authority rewriting and rewording the bible over and over. What comes to mind is the Telephone game I used to play as a child at slumber parties. You know, where you get in a line and the first person whispers a made-up sentence to the next person in line? By the time the quote gets to the other end it’s nothing like it started. The bible is like that for me. There are just too many people between God’s word and my ear. I appreciate the idea of the bible, but it’s hard to believe the specifics.
I believe God speaks to my heart and he gives me words I understand.
I don’t need to pore through pages of a really old book. Sometimes God’s words come from a thoughtful gesture or time spent meditating. Sometimes it comes straight from the mouths of babes. My daughter is almost four and she says things all the time that make me feel a connection to God.
I never feel like I have to search for God. He’s with me. He’s in me. He’s going to speak to me and I will hear his message. Maybe someday it will be through the bible, but I’m guessing it won’t be. He knows how I feel about it. And he’s okay with it.
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