You know how when you’re obsessed with something your mind’s “default position” is to be thinking about that thing? And how you can make inside jokes and random references and tie it into almost anything? Depending on what I’ve been watching or reading a lot of lately, I do that sometimes with Star Trek, or Doctor Who, or Ted Dekker books, or even Twilight. It’s pretty normal these days for me to pop out with a Doctor Who quote in daily conversation—complete with British accent—and if I’m spacing out, staring at the wall, there’s a good chance I’m daydreaming about flying off with the Doctor in that impossible blue box. Yep, I am certifiably obsessed.
What would it be like to have that same kind of obsession with something far more epic and timeless and amazing than any of those fantasy worlds? What would it be like to be obsessed with the Living and Active Word of God?
Sound crazy? Sound impossible? Oh, it’s possible, but to get there, we’re going to have to break through a few old habits.
King David was a man unashamedly infatuated, preoccupied, and otherwise obsessed with God’s Word. He wrote Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, and spends some 176 verses enthusing over the Law of the Lord. Over and over, David makes passionate exclamations like, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” (verse 97) (And to think, David only had a few books of Scripture! I bet his mind would have absolutely exploded if he could have seen the 66-book amazingness we call a Bible today.)
We’ve been doing something this year called The Journey 2011—a challenge to read all 66 books of the Bible in a year. It’s been really amazing so far. This kind of disciplined Bible reading is somewhat new to me; it’s only been since October of last year that I’ve been finding any sort of daily rhythm. During that time, God’s been teaching me something that’s completely challenged the way I’ve been living for most of my Christian life:
If I want to be obsessed with God, I need to be obsessed with his Word.
There are no shortcuts; to know God, I gotta dig down deep into the number one place he has revealed himself. I have to read the Bible not just to read it and be done, but to actually meet God.
How to do this? It all boils down to that word David used: meditation.
No, I don’t mean you should read the Bible while sitting in the lotus position and intoning a steady “ommmmmmm.” That kind of “meditation” is all about emptying your mind. What God wants is for you to fill your mind with his Word.
For me, this is what it looks like: when I sit down to read my Bible, I begin by praying something that I picked up from David in Psalm 119: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (verse 18) This verse has become the foundation of how I approach the Bible. Without the Holy Spirit opening my eyes and teaching me himself as I read, it’s going to just seem like so many words. I need to stay in communication with him as I read so that I can really understand what he’s trying to tell me.
I mean, ultimately, the Holy Spirit wrote the Bible, right? He knows it inside and out, he knows what he meant when he inspired the writers, and he knows how it applies to me today. Because of the Holy Spirit, the Bible isn’t a dead piece of literature—it is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword”! (Hebrews 4:12) As a friend of God, I have the enormous privilege of getting to read the Bible with the Holy Spirit at my side, whispering in my ear. I can ask him, “What did you mean when you wrote this? What does this say about who you are or who I am? How can this be true if that is also true?” and he can actually tell me. How ridiculously cool is that?!
I always read with a journal and pencil handy, as well as a red pen and handful of highlighters. This is just me, but I like to underline things that are theologically interesting, and highlight things that really inspire or speak to me. And I do a lot of journaling too, for making note of my favorite verses and what’s interesting about them, and also for just journaling about how they speak to my life and my relationship with God.
Sometimes I get only halfway through my daily reading because a verse or phrase leaps out and demands that I stop and focus on it for a while. I call this getting gloriously STUCK, and it happens in the most random places. I got stuck on this verse just the other day: “The beloved of the LORD dwells in safety. The High God surrounds him all day long, and dwells between his shoulders.” (Deuteronomy 33:12)
Hmmmm… isn’t that a good verse to just stop and sit with awhile? The beloved of the LORD… I am the beloved of the LORD… The God of the universe has a beloved, and it is me… he makes me dwell, live, rest in safety… The High God surrounds me, like a warm mist, or a blanket, or a shield…what does that look like? what does that feel like?...God, I want to know that you surround me, that I am your beloved…
And that’s all meditating is. It’s taking a verse or phrase or idea and rolling it around in your mind, really soaking it in. Sometimes I’ll draw it, sometimes I’ll paraphrase it, sometimes if I’m alone I’ll sing it, sometimes I’ll just think and journal and pray through it. The more I do this, the more different words will strike me, or I will suddenly make a connection to something else I’ve read. And I always come away feeling that I know God a little bit more.
I believe the point of reading the Bible is to encounter God. It’s not to learn doctrine, it’s not to study history, it’s certainly not to fulfill a duty. It’s to encounter the living Spirit who inspired it, and although he just might teach you something about doctrine or history, ultimately, he’s going to lead you to himself. He longs for you to know his heart. The Bible is a guaranteed gateway into the genuine heart of God.
And I want to know God. I want to touch his heart.
I want to be obsessed with this thing that God calls his very Word.
I hope you do, too.
“For it is no empty word to you, but your very life…”