My sophomore year of college, a friend studied abroad as part of the Honors program. One week before their departure I said, “Are you excited?” They replied, “Kind of. It hasn’t really hit me.”
I remember thinking they were nuts. How could you “kind of” be excited when world travel was a mere seven days away? How could it not slam you in the face? But now I understand. On Saturday I leave for Australia, and I can’t wait. When I’m on the plane, I know I’ll be flipping out. But at the moment I am strangely serene…so the freak-out is probably a day or two away.
I AM excited about going “down under.” I’m elated to at long last be a missionary overseas. I can’t imagine Australia or New Zealand in my mind, but I’m reading all I can about them. Reading has always been my go-to relaxer. Stumble Upon is helping me out. Meanwhile, I’m back in the Indiana offices of OMS, even back at my desk. (Which now belongs to Sandy, another OMS missionary working with HOPE61.) Spending January in PA was the perfect decision. I visited friends, saw my sisters before they returned to college, spent time with my parents, continued work with HOPE61, and visited a few churches and supporters.
At times people look at missionaries and see them as responsible for things: evangelism, church planting, discipleship, etc. But the truth is that being a Christian, period, makes me responsible for evangelism, church planting, discipleship…and truth, justice, my own spiritual growth. It’s now honesty-o’-clock and I have to admit a responsibility I have shirked my whole life. That is daily reading of the Bible.
Don’t get me wrong, there are stages where I read the Bible every day. There are stages where I read and discuss the Bible every day. But they shouldn’t be stages. It should be my life. Too often I read the Bible every other day, or every few days. When it comes to prayer I enjoy speaking with God throughout the day and night as life happens. But I don’t read His word like I ought to out of laziness or displaced priorities. I have started many regimens of daily reading, forgotten a day, and then berated myself as a failure. Not this time. For the past few weeks I’ve determined to read in Luke every day.
Friday was my flights from PA to IN, and on Saturday I realized I’d already forgotten and missed a day. I was on the verge of my old yell-at-myself routine – when I stopped.
When had blaming myself ever worked? Had I ever made myself feel bad and then suddenly read a book of the Bible a day in an unbroken chain of devotion? No. Instead I had viewed myself as a failure, shirking another responsibility as a Christian: delighting in the marvelous way God has created me. (Psalm 139) So instead I took a deep breath, connected with God, and reflected on what I had learned from the Luke readings thus far. And that was a wonderful breakthrough.
I realized that I had created a bad cycle for myself of blame, guilt, and failure. I’d even reduced the Bible to a routine instead of a holy book I learn from, a holy Scripture breathed by God & something for me to delight in as well as grow. I’m a missionary but I’m also a Christian, and a person. I do not always read the Bible daily – I forget, I fall asleep, I do something else. But I can always come back to the Word of the LORD and rest in Him. He has not condemned me for my failure. He gives me another chance to grow.
How can you help but want to read more about a God like that?