by Andrea Sanborn
Finally the lunch rush was over at the summer camp where I worked. I grabbed the Bible I had purchased the day before, and walked down to the camp meadow. There I opened its pages for the first time. It was called The Way – a Living Bible translation aimed at young people. I scanned its articles on relationships and faithfulness, taking in the pictures of teenagers with long hair and bellbottom jeans, marveling at how it seemed to be written just for me. In it I discovered a one-year reading plan, and that day I embarked on a lifelong journey of simply reading God’s words to me. It was there, under a blue mountain sky by the bank of Strawberry Creek that I discovered an endless fascination with the timeless message that would not wane over the next four decades of exploration.
The arc of my life story can best be described through my relationship with the Bible. I came from an agnostic home, but when a childhood friend started inviting me to church, my mother agreed to buy me my first Bible. Oh, those beautiful tissue pages! I loved the feel of it, the mysterious King James words; but the old language and the lack of any kind of church background kept it a mystery to me.
A few years later, when my mother realized that religion was becoming more than a passing life stage, she took it away and banished me from church, hoping that I would become interested in other things. It was then that I bought this new Bible with my first paycheck, and kept it secreted away in the staff lounge at work for me to devour between shifts.
When I left for college I bought myself a true study Bible. It was called The Open Bible in the NASB version, and through it I learned how to use a concordance and cross-references, launching a lifelong study of these words that had already been speaking deeply into my soul.
My last – and current – Bible I purchased as a newlywed, in the 1984 NIV translation that our pastor used. Many more translations have come along since then of course, but I am loath to leave behind the familiar wording of the many verses that are hidden in my heart.
I am in my 50’s now, and have read through the Bible at least 30 times. I can honestly say that this simple practice has been the most transformative, and also the most steadying thing in my entire life. I have done many Bible studies over the course of my Christian life, but nothing has come close to the soul-anchoring sweetness of simply reading the scriptures. In times of pain and loneliness, celebration and joy – even through periods of boredom or apathy – I rarely fail to find something that speaks to me in its pages. It is often those times when opening it is the result of the sheer grit of obedience that I find something that touches a tender spot in my soul.
There is an abundance of Christian material available to us now, some enriching and some disturbing. We can purchase devotionals by the dozen. But I fear that many of us can become lazy by depending on things like this instead of taking in the pure milk of the Word. Faced with the complexity and length of the Bible, I frequently see younger people reaching instead for devotionals or iconic verses to post on their Instagram feeds. It is also a temptation at this later stage of life, when the stories and passages have become so familiar, to lean on others to hand us a drink instead of drawing the living water up from the well with our own buckets.
To those of us who have grown complacent – bored, even, if we dare to admit it – this is the time to persevere. For the past five years I have led a Facebook group for our church women where we read one chapter each weekday and a Psalm on the weekends. I am still amazed at how often I am convicted, blessed, encouraged or corrected by the day’s reading. I know of no other book that is as fresh, insightful and surprising the 100th time through as the first time. We need to pass on this treasure.
COVID-19 has upended our lives and brought uncertainty, loss and fear. The proliferation of fake or slanted news reporting leaves many people without an anchor to truth through this storm. In times like these, we need to be grounded in the only truth that can hold us steady. How blessed we are to be able to run to Jesus and pour out our hearts to Him! But even more, what a privilege it is to read His heart poured out to us.
Andrea Sanborn is wife to an engineer, mom to three transracially adopted adults, and one young man with Down Syndrome and Autism. She likes morning walks, campfires by the lake and sharing her son’s latest adventures with her Facebook friends. Andrea lives in northern Minnesota and blogs about following Jesus at andreasanborn.com.