I’m enjoying what is perhaps the greatest Christmas present ever. It’s an audio Bible that I can listen to from my phone, but – get this – read by Johnny Cash. Granted, he’s got some good material to work with. ‘In the beginning was the Word’ voiced by a chipmunk, would still be thrilling. Rasped out by the Man in Black however, it’s audio gold. Even the genealogies are nail-biting.
Sometimes (ok, who am I kidding? – mostly), I find it a struggle to get the Bible open. It’s just such a hassle. All those pages. Maaan. Where to begin? It’s just gonna make me feel guilty. Or confused. (Of course, once I take my 13 year old head off, I know that’s not quite true. In reality, these are words of life. They’re wisdom and food and armour . And when I actually start reading, they often engrossing and challenging and inspiring. They transform the way I look at myself, my world and the Lord. It’s just getting to that point). My sausage fingers can lift flat-pack furniture, but they can’t quite wrench those pages open. I’ll walk for an hour in the rain to get a decent coffee, but crossing the chasm between my bed and the bookshelf – that’s a different matter.
And that’s just individual Bible study. Bring someone else into the equation and it gets even hairier. It’s a bit like when you’re younger and sitting up late with your parents. You’re yawning and can hardly keep your eyes open. Time for bed. But just as you start to make your way pillow-wards, your mum says, ‘Isn’t it a bit late for you? Shouldn’t you hit the hay?’ Instantly, every sinew of your being starts to prickle. Yes I’m tired. But they don’t know that. I’m my own person. Ain’t no-one telling me when to sleep. I’m staying up till everyone else has gone, just to prove I can. It’s not big or clever, but at the time, it kind of feels like that. In the same way, I know it’s a great idea to study the Bible together as a couple. Part of me even wants to! But as soon as Glen suggests it, my hackles rise. Sure honey, I say but my brain’s shouting. Not godly enough for you, eh? Well, how about you take the log out of your own eye matey? How about you leave me to look at the Bible by myself? Think I need to learn some Scripture lessons, do we? Well MAYBE YOU SHOULD HAVE MARRIED YOUR SUNDAY SCHOOL TEACHER. (Yes I teach Sunday school but that’s entirely beside the point).
Why do I find it so hard to sit down and open the Bible with my hubby? He’s a great Bible teacher – but maybe that’s the problem. I’m proud. I feel like I bring nothing to the table. What can I possibly contribute that he doesn’t already know? (In our first (and nearly last) Bible study I asked, ‘at the marriage feast, when do we eat the lamb?’)
But reading Scripture together isn’t about who’s got the right answers or the best understanding of ancient near eastern pottery. It’s about coming together before the Lord and allowing Him to speak to us both, to encourage one another and get excited about the biggest realities of life.
And I don’t think it’s simply an issue for women who are married to preachers. Perhaps it’s a challenge for all of us. There’s certainly a big big part of me that will not be taught. Especially not by my husband. I’ll get there myself, thankyouverymuch. My relationship with the Lord is private – I don’t want someone else muscling in. What if the bits I find exciting don’t mean anything to Glen? Or if I say something really stupid? What if he’s enthusing about some aspect of God I just don’t get? I’ll feel rubbish. It’ll hurt my relationship with the Lord – and my husband. My faith will be revealed as a trickle rather than a stream.
And what if my sin is exposed on every page? I can pretend to others, but Glen knows the real me. She’s not always so nice. In fact, she makes Darth Vader look chilled. If my heart is revealed in God’s word, that means I have to change. I’m not ready!
Or it’ll just be awkward. Uncomfortable. Like the worst kind of study where you have to keep gabbling until you get to the answer that’s written in the handbook. No, no, three’s a crowd. Much easier to watch the TV together. To poddle along, side by side but not actually speak into each other’s lives. To keep our relationship with the Lord and each other, neat and separate. Right?
Is it just me? Anyone else struggle to read the bible, alone or with their partner?