I don’t have to read too many paragraphs to know when it’s one of my favorite authors doing the writing. When dipping into the word well, each hoists their own unique blend of word choice, style, and rhythm. Their writing becomes much like their fingerprint or signature – unique. Each has taken time to practice their craft, and in the process, found their voice. If you know a writer personally, or have heard them speak, you can actually hear their voice in your mind as you read. This is when you know they have done their job well.
My writing voice is still evolving, but it’s my spiritual voice I’ve been working harder to cultivate. Our preacher always says, “If you’re not sure about something in the Bible, just keep reading.” For over the last year I’ve been doing just that. I started with the book of John and just kept reading. I read one chapter at a time, first out of the New International Version, and then out of The Message. When I finished Revelation I went back to Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Now I’m in the Old Testament. Like many of you, I’ve read it all before, but this time it was with a different purpose. This time I wanted to read it like someone who didn’t grow up going to Sunday school, didn’t know all the stories, knew nothing of God’s grace, nor understood exactly what God expected of them. You see, I’ve met many people like that in the jail and drug rehab Bible studies. The one that got me thinking most about this was the lady who had never heard of David. She didn’t know about him killing Goliath. She knew nothing about him being king, or Bathsheba, or Saul, or Solomon. Nothing! She knew who Jesus was, but didn’t know what He had done for her. I wanted to approach the Bible as if reading through her eyes, and the eyes of all the others she represents. To say it’s been eye-opening is quite an understatement!
I soon came to realize how much I had allowed my church family to color the way I look at scripture. (I’m sure it doesn’t matter which family of faith you belong to, we could all, most likely, say the same thing.) For too long, I let those standing in front of me tell me what to believe instead of trying to find out for myself. Oh, I’ve always read and studied. I was a good little Sunday school student who could quote my memory verses, and got stars on my attendance chart, but as far as making my faith my own, and understanding why I believe what I believe, I was a drop-out.
I have learned so much just by reading with fresh eyes. I now realize there are some things I grew up learning that are dear to me – things I would never abandon. But, then again, I found I had developed some beliefs that place me in the same category as the Pharisees. I know some of you squirmed a little as you read that, and that’s okay. So did I.
My hope is that we will teach our children and grandchildren to get into the Word for themselves, and model for them the freedom found in God’s grace. My prayer is that we all find our voices while looking for common ground on which to build, rather than straddling the fault lines. Jesus’ voice says, “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” When you get to know Him personally, you can actually hear His voice in your heart because He’s done His job well.