Opening the box…
When I was a small child, I talked to God. He was as real to me as mashed potatoes and the alphabet.
I had conversations with Him everywhere. Of course, this was before the distractions of the internet, cell phones, utility bills, and general adult responsibilities, but as a young boy I would lay in the grass on cool autumn evenings and stare into Creation, telling God stories about my day as if He were right there beside me, a knowing observer nodding along as I talked about Wesley Roach’s artwork or the conversations I’d heard while riding home on the bus that day.
I never felt alone in those days. I never felt as if I didn’t measure up. These times came before a lot of things happened, before the box was opened and I learned a little about what life was like when living in a broken world. It was before I began to feel that certain pieces didn’t fit, and that perhaps I didn’t fit, either.
But there will be more for that emo junk later in the year, maybe in June or something. I don’t want to turn away readers after a couple paragraphs.
My grandmother used to pile into bed with three grandchildren – myself, my cousin Amy, and my sister Allison – and tell us Bible stories deep into the night. She’d doze off midway through the story of David and Goliath, and we’d giggle a few moments before nudging her awake and begging her to continue, only she’d think she was telling the story of Samson and start talking about him shaking the temple columns, thus rendering more laughter from the easily humored audience. (Unlike adults, most children are easily entertained, even after the invention of video games and the internet.)
I believed without condition that the stories I was being told were true, mainly because of the convictions in which she spoke. While Santa died a pretty painful death early in my life, the adults around me believed in Jesus as if he were always in the room, and they were fairly convincing in their persuasions that I should be the same way. As a result, I was “saved” when I was six years old and, despite “rededicating my life to Christ” after every semi-emotional Sunday morning service through my late teens (more on that later, as well), I didn’t turn to salt from looking back for at least 13 years.
I have something of an announcement to make. And this is going to be a little difficult for those who know me to take.
I’ve recently determined that there is a very real possibility of there being a Pharisee in your midst. I’m not sure if the faith I’ve claimed to some degree all my life is my own, and I’ve only recently began to realize the weight of that statement. Being the curious rebel that I can be, I’ve learned through time to question everything about the faith ranging from “How did he fit all those animals onto that boat?” to “What happened to Enoch?” to “What kept people in the bush of Africa or in 13th century Mexico with no knowledge whatsoever of Jesus from landing directly in Hell fire?” to “How do I know for sure that Jesus’s broken body wasn’t moved by the guards themselves because they wanted to play an elaborate practical joke on the world they had no knowledge would last over 2,000 years?.” To be fair, I’m not sure I CAN find the answers to some of my questions through this venture. I just want to uncover the understanding in my heart that the God I worshipped when I was six is still out there somewhere, that He knows my name, and that He cares about my deepest need.
And that’s where this blog comes in.
For the next year, I’m going to do something I’ve never done in full, though I’m pretty certain I’ve read all the book at some point or another through my collective studies over the years. I’m going to deliberately read the entire Bible and take every question I have, big or small, to God. And, in typical me fashion, some of them I will bring to you. I’m going to study everything I can get my hands on in relation to the Word that I’ve held as my claim of faith for the bulk of my lifetime, and I’m going to invite you, the reader, along for the process.
I’m doing this for many reasons, but the primary one that I’ve bumped into ever since conceiving the idea several days ago is that I believe, personally, in the exponential power of living a transparent life. There is something inside of me that tells me from time to time that, in our shared human experiences, we have the ability to learn through community and we grow bolder in seeking our answers when we see others doing the same.
So I want you guys to be my community through this experience. Perhaps we’ll even learn something together along the way. At the very least, you’ll get an insight into my craziness, and you’ll have something to warn the others about when I come around.
I’m really scared of this experience, to be honest. I’m afraid of challenging God for a lot of reasons, but there are three primary ones that scare me the most:
- If He’s up there, what does God think about the whole thing? Who am I to challenge Him?
- What if I come out of the other end of this experience as a non-believer? Granted, I don’t think I will, as I’ve believed in God from the Christian perspective for my entire life. I’m pretty certain it’s not exactly an easy thing for Christians to wake up one day in their thirties and think to themselves, “You know, I don’t believe Jesus was the divine son of God. What’s for breakfast?”
- How will my closest friends and family members in the faith react to this entire project? Will they understand, or pass me off as a heathen? While this may read as silly to some, it’s a very real concern to me. I don’t want to lose those relationships, or even see them change, because my views of faith are different from those of others, regardless of where you stand on the spiritual side of things.
At the same time, I feel like this is something I should’ve done in my twenties, not my thirties, and that I’m behind in the game. Every man needs to look in the mirror sometimes and determine where he fully stands on things.
So, here I am. On Sunday, I’m going to open my Bible for the first time in some time – my favorite description of this moment is found in Don Miller’s Blue Like Jazz, where he describes periods of his life where he’d come across his Holy Book in odd locations, staring up at him “like a dead pet” – and I’m going to read the first couple chapters of Matthew and the first couple of Pslams. And then, at some point in the day, I’m going to attempt to display God’s love by not cursing motorists on 285 for failing to realize that Atlanta’s perimeter isn’t a training ground for NASCAR.
If I have any instant Paul-to-Damascus conversions, you have my word that I will report back immediately, especially if I’m blinded by the experience. [Seriously, if I’m blinded by this, you’ll be the first to know. Maybe the second, depending on how quickly I can get to an individual who can honestly check both optometrist and minister off his resume.] Otherwise, I hope you enjoy this stuff over the next few weeks and months, and if you feel like reading along with me, you may find the guide that Katie and I are using to go through the Bible at OneYearBible.com.
I want you to feel free to take part in this experience if it doesn’t offend you too much from either end of the ledger, and don’t be afraid to hold me accountable regardless of where you stand. I want you to challenge me, even if I get cranky with the questions.
Lastly, I know some of you know my writing style by now. [Scroll up and start reading this post again if you don’t.] I tend to be “verbose.” My hope is to break a lot of this stuff up with videos and quick-hit posts, and that my introductory piece truly is the longest that you’ll see over the course of the year…
That said, welcome to my world, or at least a small slice of it. I wish you all well, and look forward to hearing from you over the course of the year ahead.