Bible in 365, Week One: Reading the Bible in its entirety for the first time and the God who sees me

by Emily McFarlan Miller

I have a confession to make: I never have read the Bible, from start to finish, cover to cover, in its entirety.

That’s not to say I don’t read the Bible, every day even. I currently am studying the book of Amos every other week with the women’s Bible study at my church and Proverbs 31 every day in my personal devotions. (My obsession with biblical homemaking blogs is a story for another post another time.) It’s been like that my entire Christian life: bit by bit, the same stories over and over in Lutheran school, a book here, a bunch of loosely-related verses in a topical study there. It’s possible I have read the whole Bible that way, but I get the feeling there are some stretches of long books, like Isaiah, I probably have missed, maybe an unpopular Psalm or two.

It never even really occurred to me, hey, I ought to read the whole Bible, maybe even regularly, something really not all that unusual for a Christian to do, come to think of it. Somewhere in the back of my mind I just had this idea this was a huge undertaking, like eating the Old 96’er, something maybe only pastors do, and even then, maybe once in their lives.

Then my friend Craig did it. In 100 days.

He wrote about it in a blog post on the Huffington Post:

I just want to thank God for somehow giving me this idea to read the Bible, cover to cover. It made me reflect a ton, learn a ton and I absolutely feel more spiritual, and more happy. As I’ve said, I also have strived to put myself secondary to the happiness of others, especially now that I’m happy myself.

So I decided to do it, too. In 365 days, though; Let’s not get crazy. And somehow I got my husband Joel on board with it. Unlike me, he actually has read the whole Bible cover to cover. Multiple times.

The fine print

We started last Monday, using the “Canonical” Bible reading plan on YouVersion, which just means we’re reading through the “canon” from start to finish in the order the books appear in the Bible, not chronologically or switching between the old and new testaments or with a Psalm thrown in each day for fun. So far, that’s been two to four chapters a day.

We both already had the YouVersion app on our phones, which makes following a plan easy: Each day, it gives you a checklist of passages to read. You even can have those passages emailed to you or set a reminder to read each day on your phone. (I promise YouVersion is not paying me for this post. Although, I am not above that.)

For those of you to whom it matters, I’m using the New International Version (1984) translation of the Bible, and Joel is using the New American Standard Bible. He has real reasons for this. I just keep coming back to the NIV because it is the one we read through 12 years of Lutheran school, and the rhythm of the language already is in my head.

Are we happy yet?

When Craig started reading the Bible, he wrote, “those trying times, and stormy clouds, quickly evaporated.” He took a vacation, got a front-row seat to a hockey game and met one of his favorite baseball players. He tried sushi for the first time, gave out his phone number online, booked a trip to Ireland and connected with a long-lost relative.

When I started, I marveled on day one that God worked and His work was creative and even He rested; then, several days later, when a tweet by author Donald Miller reminded me again to rest: “The fact we have to sleep is God’s way of saving us from productivity and reminding us He doesn’t run a business.” How a quote from Pastor Mike Breaux of Heartland Community Church reinforced the message I’d taken from the story of the Tower of Babel: “Instead of pursuing ‘impact’ and ‘influence,’ pursue God and he will give you as much impact and influence as he wants you to have.”

And then I woke up Sunday morning.

I was on my way to church when I discovered somebody had smashed in the front driver’s-side window of my car. For the second time. The glove compartment was open, spilling its guts. And this, after our sage bush was dug out of a planter and stolen, another entire planter was stolen and our bike handlebars were stolen, all this summer. Joel also is trying to convince me somebody “borrowed” our grill, but if he or she did, I don’t think he or she plans to return it. We haven’t replaced any of these things. We don’t have a lot of money. So there may be no bike riding and no grilling this summer, the thought of which pretty much is the only thing that keeps one alive through bitter Chicago winters.

When Craig read the Bible, it made him happy. This did not make me happy. This made me cut my hands open trying to scoop the broken glass out of my driver’s seat and skip church so I could have a good, ugly cry by myself, facedown on the couch.

I won’t start the puritanical Lutheran trip, in which I try to figure out why God is punishing me. I will tell you this: Reading the Bible won’t make you happy. God never promises it will. This is what He promises:

“Your word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures. Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you” (Psalm 119:89-91).

Instead, reading the Bible will give you perspective.

This week, Joel and I read Genesis, chapters 1 to 24. We read about The Fall, how sin entered the world. Which explains a lot. We also read about Hagar. And I know the same God who saw Hagar in her distress surely sees me in mine. His word is eternal. His faithfulness continues. And I will serve Him, still.

Week One

Here are the passages that spoke to me each day this week:

  • And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done (Genesis 2:3).
  • The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown (Genesis 6:4).
  • Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4).
  • After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward” (Genesis 15:1).
  • She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me” (Genesis 16:13).
  • Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me” (Genesis 21:6).
  • Then he prayed, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham” (Genesis 24:12).

Read all posts in the “Bible in 365” series here. Follow #Biblein365 on Twitter to read my favorite verses each day, and use the hashtag to add your own comments and reflections.

Linking up with:

     Beholding Glory

Photo credit: A review of everything that has been stolen from our apartment this summer, via Instagram. (Follow me as mcemilywrites.)