Personal bible study is not my forte.
In fact, that is probably a little sugar-coated. It would be more accurate to say I suck at regular, personal bible study.
Like exercising more and eating less ice-cream, regular bible study is one of those things I know I should be more disciplined about, and that I have benefitted greatly from when I’ve been more consistent. But usually I don’t, and I feel guilty instead.
I do best when I have buddies. When I have company, I cycle further, I eat healthier, I read the Scriptures more.
So since the summer-hiatus-when all-things-grind-to-a-halt is upon us, I figured I’d better make a plan to find some bible buddies. I sent a pitiful email out to a handful of women. It read something like this: “I suck at reading the bible by myself. Will you join me on Thursdays and read Luke with me this summer? Please???”
I sent it to 12 women, expecting less than half to reply. I got 13 yeses. A bakers dozen of bible buddies.
Now I am someone who has been thoroughly trained in how to lead a bible study: how to study and interpret a passage, how to launch discussion, how to prepare questions etc. and I have myself taught many students how to prepare and lead a bible study. And for sure, extensive preparation from the leader DOES make for great bible studies. And preparation by the participants (whether with a study guide or just reading the passage before the time) usually makes for better discussion.
My plan for the summer was a no-guilt bible study. So clearly the big-prep-reaps-big-rewards model of bible study wasn’t going to work for me. So I confessed my laziness and decided on these rules of engagement:
1. No reading or prep for anyone. (so no one would ever feel guilty for arriving unprepared)
2. No preparation questions from me. (so no guilt about not asking or answering “correctly”)
3. We would gather and start reading Luke. Each person takes turns reading as many sentences as they like before they pass off to the person next to them, who can read or pass themselves (no guilt about reading too much/too little/not at all).
4. We see how far we get each week. (no guilt about how much we covered)
5. If anyone has anything they want to ask, comment on, point out etc, they say “stop”, and we stop and discuss. When we feel we’re done disussing, we resume reading. (no guilt in shouting stop. Any question or comment is fair game.)
And so we began. Just a handful of women, the Holy Spirit, and Luke. And it was Marvelous. Refreshing. At times hilarious (think of Zechariah’s trying to act out what the angel told him about his elderly wife’s imminent pregnancy!). At times poignant. At times thought-provoking. It was wonderful.
I think I’m going to call it our GONG bible study: Girls Only No Guilt. (Hmmm. If our male-counterparts were to have one would it be a BONG study?)
The simple goodness of our study made me think of my husband’s new hobby: bread making. Much to our gastronomic delight, my hubby has been experimenting with all those back-to-basics recipes. He has learned how to make starter doughs with fantastic names: poolishes and bigas. Simple ingredients of water, yeast and flour, to make simple yet mouth-wateringly delicious loaves.
I am usually a sandwich girl. I am all about the toppings: the fresh arugula, the tangy mustard, the sun-sweetened tomatoes. And the bread just holds it together like culinary parentheses. But oh, to rediscover the simple goodness of just bread. Bread by itself. Bread which fills the house with its home-and-hearth aroma. Bread hot out of the oven. Bread I burn my fingers on because I try to pull hunks off it before it has cooled.
When it comes to bible study, I think I've grown accustomed to the bible sandwich: scripture with toppings of commentary and other people's thoughts and questions and interpretations. But oh, to rediscover the simple goodness of just reading the bible. No fuss, no guilt. The bible by itself. Daily bread which infuses my life with His aroma. Fresh Bread. Bread I can’t wait to have more of.
I can’t wait until next week. Luke: we’re going to sink our teeth in and nourish our souls.
Friends, if you have a bible and a buddy – I hope you’re feasting.