I’m going to do two crazy things next month.
The first involves my reading habits. When I was in fourth grade, I went to an opthamologist who determined I was far-sighted and needed glasses. We picked out glasses right away, but it took about a week for them to order my particular prescription lens and get them fitted into the frames I’d chosen. In that seven-day interim when she knew I needed glasses, but didn’t yet have them, my mom did not allow me to read out of concern for what it might do to my eyesight. That was quite possibly the longest week of my childhood.
In January, I’m doing something similar, but this time, voluntarily. If you know me at all, you are probably aware that I am an avid reader. In 2013, I read 118 books. (And I am still hoping to round out that number by finishing the two more I started last week.) I devour books, all kinds. But for a season, I have decided to give that up.
I won’t give up reading entirely. I still plan to read one book–the only book that really matters. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you may recall that I did something similar last November. I was fed up with myself and my tendency to skim over quoted passages of Scripture in other books I read, as if the author could possibly say something that was more valuable than the canonized words inspired by the Holy Spirit. So I just stopped all the superfluous reading, and read my Bible instead. When I got up early and had an extra 30 minutes, I read my Bible. When I wanted to read an article someone had posted a link to on Facebook, I read my Bible instead. When I was waiting at a doctor’s office or in the car while Jason ran in to a store get something, I read my Bible. When I was home alone, and wanted to turn on the TV, I read my Bible.
And something extraordinary happened. With all that extra time I carved out by not reading other things, I was flying through the story of God’s plan of redemption for the world. The first day, I read all of Genesis. The next day I read Exodus. And I started to think, what if I just kept reading until I finished the entire thing?
So that’s what I plan to do in January. I will set aside the rest of my reading pile and devote all my free time to reading the Bible until I make it all the way through. It’s totally crazy, I know, and part of me is looking at the list of books I want to read and thinks that I should just give up on this whole thing. Which is exactly why I know I should do it.
Here is my rough plan:
7. Judges, Ruth
8. 1 & 2 Samuel
9. 1 & 2 Kings
10. Jonah, Amos, Hosea, Micah
11. Isaiah 1-39
12. Isaiah 40-66
13. Zephaniah, Nahum, Habakuk
14. Jeremiah 1-39
15. Jeremiah 40-52, Obadiah
17. Haggai, Zechariah, Joel, Malachi
18. Psalm 1-89
19. Psalm 90-150, Lamentations
20. Song of Songs, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes
22. 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra
23. Nehemiah, Esther, Daniel
26. 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians
27. Romans, Colossians, Ephesians, Philemon, Philippians, 1 Timothy, Titus, 2 Timothy
28. Matthew, Hebrews, James
29. Mark, 1 & 2 Peter, Jude
30. John, 1, 2, & 3 John
I’ll be reading from my Books of the Bible version, and if you ever plan to attempt something like this, I can’t recommend that Bible highly enough. First of all, they remove all the chapter and verse numbers, so it feels a little more like reading a regular book. Secondly, the changed up the order in which the books of the Bible appear. It makes more chronological sense of the Old Testament, which is helpful if you’re going to read straight through, and it pairs each gospel with epistles that highlight its unique theme, instead of lumping them all together at the beginning of the New Testament.
Also, I’m going to show myself grace as I do this, which I suggest you do for any Bible reading project you attempt in the New Year. I don’t intend to hold myself strictly to the schedule I outlined above. If I fall behind and it takes me 40, 50, or 60 days to get all the way through, I won’t count that as failure. Reading the Bible, whether it’s one verse, or the the entire book, is never a waste of time. And if there is something that I’m reading which begins to really confront me with conviction or new insight into who God is, I fully intend to pause and let God speak to me however he will.
This flies in the face of some of the advice I’ve read for other ambitious Bible reading plans. They say don’t stop and reread, don’t go back and reference another passage somewhere else, just keep reading. But my feeling is that if you consistently ignore that little voice that invites you to pause and linger over a few words or a phrase or an idea, you are actively shutting the Holy Spirit out of your life and conditioning yourself to disregard his voice in the future. I’d rather only read three chapters of God’s word in January and be truly changed by them than read the entire Bible and remain the same.
But I believe I will be changed by reading through the Bible at this pace. Afterwards, and maybe along the way if I have time, I plan to come back here and share with you all some of the things God shows me as I take in the breadth of His Word. Again, I realize this is a completely insane thing to do, but it’s the right thing for me. To set aside all my want-to-reads and focus on the one book that is truly able to change my life, to teach, correct, rebuke, and train me in righteousness.
What’s even more nuts is that this is not the only crazy thing I’m planning to do next month. I’ll share Part 2 in a couple of days. Stay tuned.