Monday, March 17, 2014

What I’ve Learned from Donald Miller: The Bible is a Love Story to You and Me

When people hear that I majored in English they expect me to know the ins and outs of grammar and to be able to understand the meaning behind every piece of literature I read.  I’m not very good at either.  I majored in English because I love to write and I love to read, but it’s a very sloppy, passionate love affair that hasn’t been refined, and I’m pretty much okay with that.  I have no desire to be the grammar Nazi, and I use Google like everyone else to find grammar rules I don’t remember.  And I like reading a book multiple times and peeling back the layers, catching what I missed the first reading instead of beating myself up because English majors are supposed to catch all the nuances the first time.  I don’t need that kind of pressure. 

What sometimes surprises me about my love affair with literature is that until recently, I was not crazy about reading the Bible.  I would read it, sometimes.  I approached it like a moron without learning the historical context of the time or viewing the maps that would help me get my mind around the geography (I’m a map person.  I like being able to put my finger on where things are.).  Nor did I realize I was supposed to understand that part of the Bible is history, portions are poetry, entire books are letters, there’s the Gospels, the Prophet books, Proverbs, tons of figurative language.  The Beatitudes and Sermon on the Mount were not meant to scare me to death but to make me realize how desperately I need a Savior.  I have one, so good news! 

Donald Miller, who wrote Blue Like Jazz and Searching for God Knows What (and others, these are my favorites so far), introduced the Bible to me in a whole new way.  He presents the idea of reading the Bible and paying attention to how God deals with people, how He has relationships with us.  Undoubtedly, God is holy and perfect and we are not, so we are not an easy crew to deal with, but He does.  He sends a Savior; He calls the church His bride; we are God’s children; I read the Bible for years and sang “Jesus Loves Me”, but more often than not I didn’t feel it.  I’d open the Bible and find all the things I’d ever done wrong and be sure this was just a letter to me that was the equivalent of God holding the L for loser sign over His forehead, then I wouldn’t want to read it anymore.  The misinterpretation was entirely mine.  As Miller pointed out, I was trying to make the Bible a formula instead of what it is: a journey of God’s experiences with people, evidence of His love and faithfulness.  So much for being an English major.

After reading the Bible in its entirety and now going back and reading more, digging deep, dissecting and pulling apart and reading commentary, I am enjoying it much more.  Besides really sitting down and reading the whole book cover to cover, the next most revolutionary change to my view of the Bible was reading Miller’s view of it.  He is okay with saying some things can be understood easily and some cannot, transparent in his desire to know the Lord more.  He believes God’s word and doesn’t try to make it anything it is not.  I’ll speak of him more during this series because his effect on my views has been pretty profound, but I appreciate the way God used Miller to help me want to read the Bible more, want to dive in between the pages and hear the love song being sung.  Sung to me.  Sung to you.

Sidenote:  Since reading the Bible, I now know the following:  my favorite books of the Bible are Genesis and Acts, my favorite Gospel is John, and I adore Paul and John as writers.  Paul because he is intense and John because he defines himself as “the one Jesus loves” and his writing is evidence that he believes it, threads of love woven into beautiful chapters.

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