I was raised in a Christian household. I use the past tense not because my feelings have changed, but because I’m no longer living with my parents. Throughout my childhood, God was placed in very high esteem. We did Sunday School, Church, even did AWANAs for a brief period.
As I grew up, my beliefs didn’t really change. There was a few months where I dated a girl who practically brainwashed me into dumping all my ideals to better appeal to her. But beyond that, I remained a believer.
Am I devoted follower of God’s teaching? Not by a long shot. I’m one of millions of religious people who treat their belief system like a hobby. I know for a fact there is a God up there looking out for me. Someday I may even tell you the tale of how I became so irrevocably convinced, but that isn’t exactly the type of material you throw up on a WordPress blog that 15 people are gonna read.
In high school, I listened to one of my Uncle’s sermons. Having two Uncles as preachers (a Baptist and a Methodist) has always been a badge of honor for me. I never worry about understanding God’s will and teachings because they love answering any questions I have on the topic. Both are great men and I look to them for spiritual guidance and clarity whenever I need it.
The sermon I had listened to was my Baptist Preacher Uncle’s. He had mentioned that he would carry his bible around with him in school and would read it regularly. It was at that point, one of the most intimidating items on my bucket list appeared: I wanted to read the entire bible. Cover to cover.
Almost every hotel has one, and just about any home with a modicum of Christianity has a couple editions. At that point in my life, I had 3: one from confirmation, one the church had passed out to kids in the fifth grade (If I remember correctly), and one of the mass-marketed abridged tomes. Those books with Psalms, Proverbs, and the entire New Testament. Why they opted to omit 95% of the Old Testament I really want to know.
The abridged one ended up being the one I toted around my Freshman year of high school. Its compact nature was easy to keep with me and not likely to get lost among my textbooks.
I made it through the Psalms, Proverbs, and Matthew. Then I put it aside. In the twelve years since, I would pick it up and read/skim a bit here and there. Just enough so the gum of my post-it note would adorn a new page. The decision to read the whole thing was aggravated when the urge to learn about other religions took hold. Wanting to read the Book of Mormon, the Satanic Bible, and other religious texts all sounded more intriguing than actually tackling the book my religion was based on. I wouldn’t undertake reading another text of that significance until the most obvious and personal one was completed first. I needed an understanding of my beliefs before I started looking at and comparing other theologies.
That only prompted a further delay of the inevitable.
The last few months, I began searching for a project. I needed something long term to invest in. I had burned out trying to watch all of The X-Files and my fitness goals were being diluted without a personal trainer. Writing has always been a passion of mine, but the daunting task of writing an actual book was something I convinced myself I wasn’t good enough or patient enough to do.
Since buying a home, I’ve tried doing things like planting new seed and working with my wife to improve our abode. Nothing was fulfilling my need for something long term.
3 different goals presented themselves all at once:
- Finish all 15 seasons of ER
- Bench press 300 pounds
- Read the entire bible
The list was diverse. One for recreation, one for health, one for…spirituality? I began all three almost immediately. I started revamping my workout routine; I loaded all available ER seasons into my Netflix disc queue (Yes, I still do the discs), and dug up the bible my sister had given me years back.
The translation was one that was much easier to swallow than the more traditional formats. It was readable in a way that didn’t force me to decipher each verse. With that knowledge, I found an online version of the New International Translation, the one my sister had given me. This allowed me to read whenever I had downtime, wherever I was. After all, the idea is to carry it with you everywhere. And in today’s society of every corner of the country wi-fi friendly, I was rarely without what I needed.
Friends and family provided techniques and methods to read it through. The consensus was to avoid going linear. Mix equal parts New and Old Testaments to keep the brain fresh. So I made a chart of all the books and checked off any that I had read in the now 16 years since I started. 66 books to read, and I’d read 5 in 16 years. Talk about a slow reader.
Just like marathon running, I made a plan and got started. After finishing Exodus, I picked away at the books that succeed it. After a few days, my spirit was broken. The dense reading was hard to stomach and very dark. If you haven’t read it yet, the Old Testament is filled with God being vengeful and punishing traitors. It made me start to question things. It only frustrated me when whole chapters were devoted to 1 of three things: family trees, building instructions, or repetition. Sometimes pages were filled with nothing but do-it-yourself temple instructions or 6 degrees of Adam & Eve.
Once New Testament started mixing in, it began to feel a bit more fluid. I still had questions, but nothing to the point of losing faith. It all began to feel like I was reading a history book about the man upstairs’s relationship with humans. Some of the tales and stories I read were terribly bizarre. It got to the point where I would have to explain them to my wife in a way that summarized and occasionally seasoned the stories. As the reading hit its peak, people began asking for stories of what I read. Not in the sense of preaching the good word per se, more wanting an irreverent retelling. It helped me recall what I read and pay more attention to what I was reading.
A few weekends ago, I reached the end of my reading journey. I had managed to successfully tackle the entire bible. I have since marked up my hard copy with a highlight, which is par for the course. As I look back at the stories and different books. The biggest takeaways are things I will likely process over the next few weeks or months.
(Continued) The Big Book Part II