Come to Me in the Word

Come to Me in the Word

Thirteen years ago, in May of 2008, I opened a new journal, took a pen and wrote, Genesis 1:1-8.
Despite identifying myself as a person of faith, I had not been regularly reading the Word for
over 25 years.

I became a Christian when I was four, grew up involved in an evangelical church, counselled
two entire summers at a faith-based camp, and completed several inspiring Bible classes in
college. Following college, I married a wonderful Christian man, worked in a variety of jobs,
and eventually became the mom of three delightful children.

In my late 20’s, feeling hurt and disillusioned by the church we’d been involved in for many
years, I stopped attending. I continued reading the Word, sporadically…you know, my favorite
passages; or, on a whim, a particular NT book, for a while. . . over time I read less and less, and
more often when I did read, the Bible felt incomprehensible to me; like there was a wall between
me and it. I stopped reading altogether.

Seven years later, now mothering three small children, God planted a deep hunger in me for
Christian community, and led me to a church, which I began attending regularly with our
children. I sat there, Sunday after Sunday, soaking up the singing, the Scripture, the praying,
the preaching: fresh cold water to a parched and shriveled soul.

Several years later I was hired to lead a particular ministry and began reading the Word on my
own again ~ sincerely, but just the passages that applied to what was needed for the ministry.
As all of this unfolded, I was ever so slowly awakening to the fact that my marriage, despite
some good aspects, was overall in a desperately unhealthy state. There were changes I needed
to make, and I was working at making them. There were changes my husband needed to make,
and he was trying but unable to sustain the efforts or the changes.

Despite counseling, a fantastic 12-step program, and the care of friends, the situation grew
worse until I understood that if he did not change our family would not survive. I focused my
attention on my husband: I cried, I reasoned, I ignored, I pleaded, I prayed, I yelled, I gave up, I
tried again.

And God used all of this to get my attention. He insistently pressed me with questions that I
could finally no longer ignore: Who was first? God, or my husband? What was I bowing before: the
Lord or my longing for a happy, intact family? In what was my hope?

By God’s grace, I got off the crazy carnival ride I had been on for decades. Focusing on my
husband had distracted me from the urgent decision I needed to make about my own life, and
again by His grace, I chose: Okay, Lord, You are first. I want my husband to change, our family to stay
together, our marriage to heal and thrive. But even if none of that happens, You are first.
I release it all to You.

It was a watershed moment, and what took hold of me immediately was the conviction that if
the Lord was really first, I had to get to know him better. And the way to do that was to make
time to sit with him in his Word every day. Not to feel better, not to get a healthier marriage ~
although I still wanted those things ~ but to place myself under his authority, listen to him,
grow close to him, learn what he was like, understand what he was asking of me, pour out my
heart to him, receive his healing and his love, and learn what it meant in moment-by-moment
daily life to say, Yes, You are my Lord, You are first.

So I bought a journal. I got up early. I made a place for myself in a quiet corner of our basement:
couch, lamp, Bible, journal, pens, colored pencils. I followed a suggestion a pastor had made
years before: begin reading the OT and the NT at the same time. See how they work together,
how they shed light on each other, how the same God is speaking in both and speaking to you
through them.

I began in Genesis, the gospels, and the psalms. Each day I read just as far as I felt led; some
days, just a handful of verses. I had no goal to get through a certain amount in a certain time; I
just wanted to be in the Word, and over time, to read all of it, in an ordered way. On the very
first page of my journal I wrote Scripture verses or quotes that were particularly meaningful to
me, including, “Desire to meet God in the Word and fellowship with him;” and from Luke 1: “I
am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”

I would read the next passages, write whatever I was struck by in each passage, and then sit
quietly to hear what God was saying to me through all I had read and written; following all of
this with a time of prayer. There was nothing magical or better about this method compared to
others; what mattered was that it worked for me. Over the years I have followed this basic
approach with organic flexibility: at times slowing the pace for more in depth study of a
particular book, or supplementing with commentaries, devotional writings, and other materials.

And God did speak. On one of my earliest journaling days I read about God breathing life into
man (Genesis), that the Gospel of Luke was written so the reader would know the certainty of
what he’d been taught about Jesus, and, from Psalm 1, that the person who meditates on the
word of God will be like a fruit-bearing tree. I wrote, “My very life is to point to God’s desire to
breathe his life into each of us, to testify to what I know is true ~ so that others may believe ~
and to bear the fruit that comes from eating the Word. . . My life is not my own.”

In another entry, I write about what transpires in Genesis 13. Abram and Lot realize their
households can’t peacefully inhabit the same area of land, so Abram, though he is Lot’s uncle,
gives Lot first choice. Lot chooses land that is beautifully watered, like a garden, and Abram
gets the leftovers. Then Scripture says, The Lord said to Abram after Lot had departed from him, “Lift
up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will
give to you and your offspring forever. . . Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am
giving it to you.” In other words, “ in case you think Lot is in charge of this situation and you just
got a very bad deal, here’s what’s really going on: Abram, I’m giving this land to you. This is
your land to steward. It’s a gift.” And that day I heard God say to me: “Do not look at your life
with disappointment, sorrow and self-pity, believing that someone else’s choices have left you
with a dry and barren land. I am giving this land to you; I am in charge! Receive it with thanksgiving
and steward it with me.”

At this same time, my son’s best friend memorized the book of Philippians for a program he
was in. My son talked about doing the same, and I offered to join him. I had no idea what I was
getting into! It was well over a year later that we took a long walk in the woods, taking turns
reciting each of the chapters to each other.

The more I read, the more I wanted to read. The more I memorized, the more I wanted to
memorize. Not to become a Bible expert. But because it was and is a path to intimacy with the
Lord. I was and am getting to know him; he is loving me, changing me, repatterning me,
strengthening me, teaching me what it means to say, no matter what is happening, “Yes, Lord, you
are first.”

The path ahead was still uncertain and I would experience difficulty, uncertainty, and tears for a
long time. I did not immediately succeed in being with the Lord in his word every day;
although that practice grew . . . what made the difference was that now I was first aligned to the
Lord, and he used our time together in his Word as the thing that anchored me to Him.

This is his invitation to all of us:
Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters. . . Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live.