I’ve never read the Bible from end to end. I grew up in the church but biblical literacy was not encouraged, until Blackhawk. Reading the ancient books I wondered—does God love me? Who am I to question God? And yet, I regularly bring questions and doubt to my reading of scripture.
I cringe reading the Old Testament, at times embarrassed that it is a part of my religion because the God of the ancient stories seemed appalling to me. As I open up the text, doubts loudly dominate as I wonder: Is God full of wrath, as ruthless and destructive of cultures as these stories seem to convey? More vital personally, does God look down on and limit women, or simply ignore women’s existence like so many of the Old Testament stories do, or worse, does God consider me less worthy because I am female? This is a topic I’ve dedicated a lot of time and thought to, with questions I bring to the text because of their application today.
As a result, for months I quit reading the selected texts for Eat This Book. Dejected, I felt heavy-hearted, even bogged down with discouragement, that this ancient, patriarchal, violent religion was connected to my faith and church, thoughts I have dodged for most of my adult spiritual life.
A wise friend suggested I read it differently, and listen for themeta-story of Yahwehwhich is told and retold over many generations. Still questioning and wondering, still doubtful, I tried to understand what the God of the Old Testament has to do with me, or you, the 21st-century followers of Jesus. In time, through God’s gracious gift of connections, I saw that we, followers of Christ are part of this innumerable family! The Story matters because of the character of God whose faithfulness and love is clear throughout the generations. We are a part of a community of faith — the whole line traced through the Old Testament. Believers are connected, continuing forward. This is our inheritance. This story, the promises and covenant and love of God is for us all, the Story a continuum, toward Jesus. And now I see grace, even back in the ancient stories with the care for the poor, the alien, the widowed, the barren, even the environment.
All my life I’ve been yearning to be a part of something, and finally I understand fully that I am! I know; I see in the Story that God’s faithfulness is infinite, and as it touches each of us, God’s love transforms us through atonement of our sins, actively reconciles people to God and one another. That’s the promise for you and me.
I read the ancient stories with different eyes now, knowing that we are each a treasured part of the Story. I have intimacy with God in a new way, for the first time.
Strangely this came from knowing the Story. This is utterly awe-inspiring. Yes, God is formidable, to be revered and feared. But “fear of the Lord” is a reverence that strengthens and fills us through our dependence on God. I am significant to this God, who is and was and will be, for all time and outside of time.
Frequently in the ancient texts I noticed people fell on their knees before God when in His presence. I believe this is to be our posture too, awe. Revel in His presence, His affection. I have been both wrecked and healed.
The religion that caused me pain as I began to read the text over time has healed me, bringing reconciliation and restoration to my life. I am part of that story. It is also my Story, which is breathtaking and devastating, from beginning to end. Soaking in the big story of the Bible faithfully, as I was truly listening, truly pursuing understanding and wisdom, the Holy Spirit revealed a gift, God’s love. It was there all along, but I was so caught up in and caught off guard by cultural differences and my assumptions, out of ignorance and naiveté. How difficult it is for us to hear the Truth. And this limits God’s work in me. Now, humbled and convicted, I open the word of God differently—on my knees. Sure of his acceptance and love, in faith that there is something in it for us all no matter our background, our brokenness, our gifts or abilities, or our gender. There it is, hope for us all.
This article was originally published in Illuminate, a magazine of Blackhawk Church.
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