By: Jennifer N. Pearson
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and somewhere along the way they say something that almost stops you in your tracks? Something that strikes you in such a way that the words that follow seem as if the volume of the following sentences seem to slowly turn down while the clarity and truth behind that one statement is the only thing left echoing in your thoughts.
I had an experience like this a week or so back with a dear friend of mine and truthfully one of the most amazing women that I have ever met. She’s hard-working, tough, kind, thoughtful, gentle, honest, caring and real. She’s immensely real which happens to be one of the biggest reasons that I enjoy her company. She doesn’t put on airs, make herself seem more or less than the woman she is, or make apologies for what others may expect her to be.
Instead, She knows who she is and the kind of person that she was created to be. The life she lives makes obvious her love and dedication to Jesus, her family, her community, and her friends —in that order. She has and continues to impact my life in so many ways. Not because she is just like me and we have everything in common but instead because she is true, honest, and real. And I would guess that her humility would keep her from even recognizing that it is her that I am writing about.
Her words carry weight because they are never empty. Ok back to the point of the story ….
I sat at a round table with her and a few others. Amid our discussion, she said something that took me by surprise. Not because it was something wrong or bad, but because it was truthful and it was something that I needed to hear.
We were discussing what our individual daily quiet time/Bible reading time looked like. She responded by saying, “I haven’t read through the Bible in a year —I have tried, but have failed every time.” She continued by explaining how she spends time in her Bible and also how she teaches it to her children.
Failure is a harsh word and as she spoke it, the discussion in my mind seemed to stop mid-sentence and my thoughts silently swirled around in my head.
“What is failure?”
“What does it mean if we fail?”
“Why is it so hard to admit our failures to others?”
Let me be clear —I don’t think that admittance of such things is necessary in most cases but in this instance, I was grateful for her transparency. The truth is that what she may have recognized as a failure, instead I saw success, perseverance, and dedication to what she knew was most important in her life. You see, what she said she had “failed” at year after year wasn’t actually what she was striving for. As I read between the lines, I recognized that her goal wasn’t to check a box and read the Bible. Her goal was to learn, study, and know God’s Word so that she could teach it to her children, and live it out in her life.
“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.” Deuteronomy 11:18-21
And just to make sure that my heart behind this post is not misunderstood or taken in a way it isn’t intended. I absolutely do NOT think that 1 year Bible reading plans are wrong options or bad choices. Heck, I do NOT think that any Bible reading plans are wrong. I think plans are wonderful ways of helping us to intentionally implement a time of daily Bible reading. They offer a place to start and a direction to the finish. But along the way, we must remember the goal and what we are striving for.
So why was this conversation with my friend such a big moment for me —one that I would think about so much and then spend hours writing about?
Because it was what I needed to hear. You see the previous morning, I had woken up and opened my Bible to realize that I was 4 days behind on my current plan. Almost immediately I was greeted with a huge sense of disappointment and “failure”. My mind raced into “catch-up mode” and I rushed to check off the boxes in hopes that once I had reached completion, the frustration, defeat, and “failure” that I felt would be extinguished.
You see, yours truly over here had momentarily forgotten what she was striving for when she began her Bible Reading Plan and that was time with God in His Word. The purpose of this time was to rest in Him, learn from His truths, and grow more into the woman He created me to be. I didn’t fail, I was just behind. And being a few days, a few weeks, or a few months behind doesn’t equal failure. Failure is what happens when we lose sight of our goal and strive for the wrong purpose.
So if you find yourself in a similar place —a place where this resonates with you because the unchecked boxes have made you feel as if you have “failed”, I want you to pause. Just stop for a moment and remember why you started and what you are striving for.
Maybe those unchecked boxes are there because you spent 2 days on 1 passage in order to understand it better.
Maybe they are there because you spent more time in prayer and the quiet time of your morning got away from you.
Or maybe the unexpected moments of life disrupted your plan for that day and several that followed.
Friend, hear the truth from me today. You didn’t fail —you just got behind. Be reminded today of the purpose of God’s Word and just pick it back up. Even if there are more unchecked than there are checked —pick it back up and dig into this goodness and truth found nowhere else but here. It’s not a race to the end so that you can check off a year’s worth of boxes and complete it. Instead, it’s a lifelong journey where we walk towards Him just as we are. Not who we think we should be or who we wish we were but just who we are right now at this moment.
The reality and truth of it all is that a checked-off box and a completed task make no difference at all if it goes toward the wrong purpose.
Jennifer N. Pearson
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