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My relationship with the Bible has not always been a comfortable one, but it has shaped me at every stage of my life. When I first started reading, the Bible felt like a straightforward manual on how to be a good Christian—it seemed that if I could only read constantly and keep its words on my heart and lips, I would always know how to please God and love my neighbor. I glossed over contradictions, rules that not even my pastors seemed to follow, and disturbing passages, and trusted that everything would make sense in time. As I grew older I found—much to my dismay—that the words I read only became more complicated. It began to seem that memorizing verses, wearing them on T-shirts, or sharing them on social media was less important than trying to understand them. I began to wrestle, to pray, to question and struggle my way through the Bible, and my relationship to God became both more difficult and more personal.
Today I still struggle with the Bible—I struggle to understand how I and others whom I love and respect find such disparate truths within the same pages, and often even within the same verses. I struggle to understand what the words say about my own life and the lives of those I love. I’ve come to respect the ways that others read the Bible, but I also believe that to truly love others and honor God, I am called to push back against readings that contradict the laws which Jesus says are at the heart of scripture: to love God with everything you are, and to love your neighbor as you love yourself.
As I keep reading, I find myself asking new questions. A verse that never made sense suddenly yields a new meaning, and that meaning, in turn, illuminates other verses. Sometimes a parable that I’ve highlighted and underlined and studied extensively seems strange and unfamiliar. So I read again. And sometimes, God speaks again.
I don’t think that the Bible is meant to be simple or easy to understand. I think that I honor God by wrestling with it. I think we honor God through honest, loving conversation about the different ways we read and the alternate sources of direction we find. I think that this complicated, frustrating, holy book challenges me to be more humble and more loving with every new question it raises, and I suspect that this is the point. But I’m still learning!