Thursday, January 29, 2009

What did great-great-grandma do?

In my perusal through Blogland this January, I was happy to see that many people put "Read through the Bible," or "Daily bible reading" on their list of goals for the new year.

As moms, and particularly as mothers with preschoolers at home, this can sound like such an overwhelming task. Those checklists glare at us, reminding us how behind we are, so why bother? Others seem to be able to handle it. Why can't I seem to get it together?

Boy do I hear ya. It can be so discouraging. But not impossible. I thought I'd share a thought that has helped me over the years:

What did our great-great grandmas of the faith do?

When I get discouraged that I'm behind on my Bible reading or my Beth Moore or Kay Arthur homework (both of whom I LOVE!), I remind myself that formal Bible studies with written homework are a fairly recent invention. In the early centuries of the church, few copies of the scriptures were available, and I would hazard to guess that the literacy rate among women was pretty low. Our great-great (great-great) grandma of the faith was not marking her personal copy of the Bible with colored pens - triangles for this, circles for that, and octagons for the others.

No, she probably opened the Bible - most likely only book in the whole household - and read from it, or she listened carefully as portions of scripture were read to her. Then, she mulled them over and over as she went about her day's work until she memorized them. She let its words soothe her soul, give her hope, and renew her mind. She took the stories of the Bible literally and with awe. She accepted God at His Word, and even in her limited understanding, she taught the Good Book to her children.

So what does this mean for me?

For one thing, I will tell you that when I had three preschoolers (the Dark Years and Facing the Preschool Years) I stopped agonizing over the charts and lists. I can count on two or three fingers the number of studies I actually completed (many more started, but unfinished). Instead, I spent literally YEARS reading Psalms and Proverbs over and over again. Why?

Besides the fact that I had no idea what I was doing as a mother and totally identified with David when I looked at my children ("Why do the heathen rage?"), here's the main reason: The chapters are (for the most part) SHORT.

Very dumb sounding reason, but in those years I was so overwhelmed by motherhood that the thought of doing more than opening the Bible and finding something - anything - that met my need for the moment was utterly discouraging to me.

I started putting my Bible on the counter next to my bathroom sink, because getting a shower was a huge goal to accomplish, and most days, it was my only time to get a moment alone. As I dried my hair and put on my makeup, I opened it and began to read a Psalm or two a day or a chapter of Proverbs.

Somehow during those times - with the hair dryer going and all - God met me. I saw His faithfulness, His greatness, His sovereignty. Amazingly, through the constant repetition in short, often-interrupted, and sometimes haphazard spurts, I was able to memorize whole passages - words of beauty and comfort and hope and praise that still come to me in the night hours when my mind wants to wander to dark places.

When I'm tempted to quit because I'm not doing a perfect job, I'm behind, or my kids are sick again so I missed church, I remind myself that ALL scripture is inspired by God. Whether it's whole books, whole chapters, whole verses - or one phrase (such as "I AM"), His word will not return void.

As the kids have gotten older and my schedule has morphed along with them, I've stuck with my repetition habit. My Bible still stays by my sink in the bathroom (which I CAN'T WAIT to update!):

Nowadays, even once my hair is dry, I just keep reading. I try to read through the Old Testament every one or two years (with frequent stops in Psalms and Proverbs, because I love them so).

But my New Testament reading is much like my Dark Years days: I like to read the short books over and over until I get a feel for the flow of the book. Edited to add: Here is a simple study "system" similar to what I do. I use a good study Bible and underline with whatever color pen I can find that day. I keep notecards on hand so I can write down verses I want to memorize. I listen for God to speak to me through what I'm reading, again and again - What is Your word for me - just for today, Lord?

My mom tells about sitting by her own mother, reading scripture to her in her last days. As Mom read to her, she marveled as Grandma began to recite whole chapters along with her. Grandma never went to seminary. Compared to what's available today, her Bible study resources were minimal. But Grandma - by constant repetition over a lifetime of loving Him - had stored God's Word in her heart.

When she faced death, she didn't want someone to tell her what a great job she did on her Bible study that week. She really didn't even want to hear a sermon or an exegesis of the scriptures.

She just wanted to hear the the comforting, everlasting, redeeming WORD of God.

So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:11

Receive with meekness the implanted word,
which is able to save your souls.
James 1:21


Tara said...

Thank you so much for writing this post. It brought tears to my eyes as I read the words, since I'm in the Dark Years of preschoolers as well, and am constantly guilt-ridden that I haven't read enough of the Bible or haven't spent enough time alone in prayer. I really needed to hear this today!

Anne said...

Thanks for sharing this. I feel like the only Bible reading I've done lately is when I read my girls' childrens Bible before they go to bed each night. I really like the idea of reading while blow drying my hair.

Les & Sweetie Berry said...

You are a wise woman in instructing all of us that God's word is for our comfort, not our shame or guilt. I have returned now during the teenage mothering years to Proverbs and Psalms often...while I love studies and for the first time in many moons am in a women's group this year now that I'm down to 2 at home...the most meaningful times for me are still when in the quiet moments God shares....usually in one or two verse snatches...very informally...or a quiet moment while waiting in the car line.
Oh how I hope as I come to the close of my life I can be like your mother's mother...but for today even one verse...Love Never enough.
hugs my friend, hugs!

katherine said...

thank you so much for this post! as a mom of a 15-month-old, with one on the way, and a part-time employee, my days are harried and i have little time to mysef. still in early pregnancy, i'm exhausted so much of the time and so often feel very "unspiritual" using my little one's nap time to nap myself!

but, what a great reminder i DO have time -- i usually manage a shower each day, including drying my hair! i can certainly read snippets and meditate on them during these moments that i'm more awake than asleep.

thanks for sharing your wisdom with those of us coming behind!

Maureen said...

Great post! I am still at that same stage of grabbing a spirit "snack" as I call it, rather than a spiritual "meal". I too keep various forms of scripture in the places I spend alot of time or the place I can find a moment of solitude. So I keep a small resource in my car glove compartment for when I am in car line at the school and of course in the bathroom! I always wonder is it weird to get my alone time with God while using the bathroom?? Oh well, when you gotta go-you gotta go and I am sure the Lord is just happy that I am seeking Him no matter where I am or what I am doing!!

Kimberly said...

Great post!~

Cassandra said...

Yes. Thank you for sharing. This was awesome and needed. :)

Karen said...

Great post! I can always, always, always find time to read at least a few verses or short chapters, even when my three girls (7 and younger) seem determined to tear the house down brick by brick.

I do not have time for frills or "helps" that get between God's Word and me. I get that some people really need or enjoy those Beth Moore, Kay Arthur studies (and I've done a few myself, in order to spend time with the ladies in my church) but I generally don't consider that my "real" Bible reading. Thanks for the reminder.

MaryBeth said...

What a good word and so timely for me. I have a 3 week old (my first baby...yeah, life has changed a bit in the last 3 weeks!) I have been trying to read while I nurse, I read about 5 words and realize I can't remember a word I read, so I keep re-reading the same bit. Thanks for the encouragement today...I needed it.

Julie said...

Great advise Katherine. I wish I had thought of that when my kids were younger. I always felt so guilty I wasn't in the Word more frequently.

We are having another warm day, has your weather gotten better?


Trena said...

Thank you. This is what I needed to hear as I stumble through the dark years. Read a little and ponder it all day. I can do that.

Peapod Four said...

I just wanted you to know that this post really blessed the ladies in my small group. We are at week 8 in a Beth Moore study and more than a few are feeling overwhelmed/behind/unable to continue/etc. This was just the encouragement they needed to keep their eyes on what was truly important.

Mary@notbefore7 said...

What a great reminder. So often I get consumed in how it should look or how I want it to look, etc. I want to finish certain studies or do certain things and really, I just need to read His Word.

Moving a bible to a few rooms in this house tomorrow :0)