This is Why You Fail...At Reading Your Bible
I've heard ESPN commentator Herm Edwards say that "a goal without a plan is a wish." And every year I wished I had had read my Bible more. More minutes, more chapters, more days. I fail more than I succeed. I can't say that I end up reading less than prior years, but I just don't reach my goals. Are they too lofty? Maybe. But aiming for goals that don't push you to the max seems pointless.
So why do I fail?
The reasons I come up short are numerous. Some are related to character flaws like laziness and a love for Netlfix. Some are spiritual issues. I am naturally rebellious against God and I tend to avoid him when I am pouting about not getting my way. My avoidance includes ignoring his word.
But the biggest reason as to why I rarely complete my task was brought to light when I was scrolling through our Twitter feed and came across this gem:
I am a terrible planner. It is miraculous that all the Empty Conversation and blog posts get published on time...but, that is another story. After reading this tweet I suddenly grasped the depth of these wise words:
I fail at reading the Bible because I failed to plan to read the Bible. In my head I had chosen the end result I wanted to see - the goal. But I missed the step of planning out the path as to how to get there. I always wished I read the Bible more because I never came up with a systematic plan. I could never achieve the goal because I had no idea how to get there.
The Pressure To Perform
Let me know if this sounds familiar. It is the day after Christmas and the mind turns toward the New Year and the resolutions you need to make. Lose weight, finally stop picking you nose, read the Bible more, etc., etc. Then you make a wish in your head and vow to start on January 1st. The first roles around and you may or may not get started. You pick up momentum and then quickly lose it. Before you know it, it is July and you haven't got any where near your goal that you wanted to achieve.
It feels like we have this pressure on us to jump in and run the marathon on our first try. We've been told by many spiritual authority figures that you must read the Bible this many times for this many minutes or you are not a good Christian. First, that is terrible theology. Second, they often overlook that spiritual maturity requires spiritual endurance and you just don't get that at the jump of the gun.
Because we love and trust our spiritual leaders we try hard to do what they say, but when we fail we lavish guilt on ourselves and then never return to the discipline until the following January 1st. I am here to tell you that you can read the Bible and you can get through this year and reach your goal. But you will need a plan.
Why this year will be different...I hope.
I am entering 2016 with a goal accompanied by a plan. In early December of 2015 I took an account of myself and honestly assessed what amount of time I was willing to commit to the reading the Bible. I wanted to practically test it out before making the commitment for a full year.
I logged into my Bible App on my phone and found a reading plan that was for 14 days. I figured that it would be a good barometer to assess my goal. After the 14 days I re-assessed and re-committed to a year long plan that was slightly more involved than the one I had just completed. Then I started it right away! That is correct, I did not wait until the new year to get going. I wanted to build on the momentum I had instead of wasting the hard work I had already put in.
Now, how did I choose my reading plan? There were two criteria:
- It needed to fill the length of time I wanted to commit to (1 year)
- It needed to tie in to a future project I want to do with Empty Church (coming soon, stay tuned).
By linking my reading plan to a goal outside of the reading plan I now have some accountability to stick with that plan, or, at least, that is the goal.
My best practices for setting up a Bible reading plan:
- Do a self-assessment first. What is the longest time you can easily commit to as a test run?
- Re-asses after your test run. Can you do more? Do you need to do less?
- Choose a plan that fits into your lifestyle. Buy a study Bible or devotional or use the Bible App and its reading plans (if you need recommendations, please feel free to ask)
- Tie your goal to something tangible. Write in a journal, blog, or live tweet your devotions. Create artwork from the verses you read.
- Create accountability. Ask a friend to ask you what's up with your goal. If you like checking boxes on a to-do, make sure you do. Tie your devotions to a bigger project that has to get done.
- Stop freaking out about having your plan perfectly line up with the days of the year. It's past the New Year now, get started anyway!
- If you miss a day, Forgive yourself quickly and get back to it. You don't get brownie points for perfect attendance!
There are numerous methods to read your Bible and there is a joy to it, despite how boring the book of Numbers can be! The biggest thing you can do is set a plan and work the plan. There are those of us who are great planners and poor follow-through-ers. We at Empty Church are here to help in any way we can. If you need us to periodically ask you "what's up with your reading plan?" we can do that. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know how we can help you read your Bible more in 2016 and beyond.