I used to read the Bible as protection against recidivism.
Recidivism is just the fancy word for describing the way prisoners, having served their sentence, return to their criminal ways and become repeat offenders.
At 15, mine was a rather dramatic conversion. An abrupt coming-to-Jesus. In two short years, my first two years of high school, I’d done my fair share of the typical partying high schoolers do. Nothing more dramatic than ending up incoherent in unfamiliar places, but losing things irretrievable.
I lived the first couple of years after my conversion with fear at my heels. Of failing Him, of letting go, of falling. I didn’t yet know my chances against the statistics. Of recidivism.
But I’d been challenged to practicing certain spiritual disciplines. One was to read the Bible ten minutes a day for six months. Six months made for habit, and good habits seemed to my only hope. Terms of parole, you might say.
I made it six months not having missed a single day. And then a year. And two. And so began a habit that has been mine for the past almost 23 years. It has been the most important habit of my life.
Not because it protected me in the way I thought it would. I had it all wrong back then, believing that I had to strengthen my grip on God. It was later I learned that He, by His unbelievable grace, was holding fast to me.
It’s not a habit I’ve kept perfectly. At first, maybe I did, because the fear lurked. But later, there was the grand invitation to find God in all the craziness of life, especially in the unpredictable days and nights that became mine when motherhood dawned. As a mother, I haven’t always had the perfectly executed quiet times I might long for, the hour daydreams I’d had with God in college.
But there is always the eventual returning to the habit: this absorption of the Word that does a good work in me.
Scripture returns me to gospel grace: He holds me fast. His love endures. I need these words in the face of my failures.
It probes my heart’s motivations: The generosity and gentleness of Christ. They are not yet mine. I am not who I long to be.
It deepens my heart’s trust: Every narrative strand of the testaments, weaving the story of how forever, He will be faithful, good and strong. It’s here I learn to lean and depend.
It commissions me: His kingdom come, His will be done. I am sent, challenged to be more and more His, more fully surrendered to His purposes.
There is nothing like setting yourself deliberately in the path of the Wind.
Where there once may have been a kind of constricted legalism, now I feel a tremendous freedom in exactly how I read the Scripture. I allow myself just enough structure to keep myself on track. (For the past several years, I’ve been back in the One-Year Bible.) But I also give myself permission to rethink the structure when it’s simply not working for me.
My only goal is to let God’s Word absorb more deeply into my DNA. Hide nothing from Him. Expect that He’ll speak, position myself to listen, and ask for grace to obey.
Dallas Willard has this to say in his fantastic book, Hearing God.
“Do not hurry. Do not dabble in spiritual things. . . Watch and pray.”
“It is better in one year to have ten good verses transferred into the substance of our lives than to have every word of the Bible flash before our eyes.”
This year, I want to wear the habit of the Word.