The Purpose of Reading the Bible
I have been incredibly blessed to not only take two classes from Dr. Ray Lubeck on Bible study methods, but I've been given his permission to adapt his materials to teach them to high schoolers. Ray is an important part of my story, and he comes up a lot as I teach his content and reference stories that stuck with me when he explained things. I have several other professors and mentors who come up in my lessons as I explain important content. Sometimes I forget that I then become the quoted one in the stories my students tell as adults.
This past week has some beautiful reminders as I heard a couple comments about my perseverance in the face of adversity is a positive example of faith. Not only that, but I had a former student who is in a writing class tell me about reading a story she wrote in class that was a vulnerable recounting of some pretty big hurt in the church juxtaposed with a conversation she had with me. I was so proud of her for articulating her growth and commitment to Jesus, and I was touched to see how she included me as part of that journey. This particular student also has a habit of texting her best friend when she's stressed, happy, bored, or excited, "WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF READING THE BIBLE?" The best friend immediately responds, "TO FOSTER LOVING RELATIONSHIPS WITH GOD AND OTHER PEOPLE." They learned this line from me. I learned it from Ray Lubeck. He wrote it in his book Read the Bible for a Change. I teach that book to my students, but I repeat every single day, "If there is only one thing you remember from this entire class I want it to be that the purpose of reading the Bible is to foster loving relationships with God and other people."
By week two, I can just ask the class, "What's the purpose of reading the Bible?" and hear a chorus excitedly telling me, "TO FOSTER LOVING RELATIONSHIPS WITH GOD AND OTHER PEOPLE!" It sticks, and when they are seniors, I often hear them asking or answering the question with my current students. When I get opportunities to have a large group of students, it's bound to be heard. In fact, I was leading an advisory session during the first month of school that was just seniors, and I asked the room the purpose of reading the Bible. Sixty excited seniors shouted, "TO FOSTER LOVING RELATIONSHIPS WITH GOD AND OTHER PEOPLE!" The five new seniors were terrified. One of them recounted to me just this past week about how weird that experience was, but now, despite never having taken my class, she's familiar with the sentiment and can join in with her friends who hang out at my house talking about the Bible.
Several months ago, a student who has spent a significant amount of time at my house talking through faith and life questions reached out with an idea for a tattoo. She told me that she wanted to get the words "foster loving relationships with God and other people" tattooed on her arm as a reminder of how she wanted to live. It was going on her dominant arm so she would see it every time she picks up a pen or reaches for her phone. It would show that she wanted to act with purpose according to what she learned in the Bible. Not only that, but she has had a faith shaped by so many others, so she wanted the words written by eight influential people who have modelled that love for God and others in her life. She was spoiled for choices as she selected whose handwriting would make it onto her arm, and I was one of at least five adults she considered. What an absolute honour that I'm one of the two adults who made the cut as she chose six of her closest friends as well.
I also had the special privilege of connecting her with my tattoo artist who let me sit in the session and capture the fresh tattoo grin.
I don't get everything right, and this kid certainly knows it, but she's sat with me for countless hours while we read the Bible together at my table and talk about how we can love God and love others better.
This morning before the church service started, Helen and I were chatting about the implications of the Luke 8 reading, and I brought up the tension of certain hasty interpretations with James, and we hit on the importance of discernment. My friend Greg Coles brought that up with my students when he skyped into access time and elaborated on how his personal journey through Scriptures made him realise people had oversimplified a complex issue. This week was completely filled with so many other important connection points as I had conversations about how I could love God or love others better, and it even had some practical applications where I got to share love by inviting a group of dorm students over for waffles or crashing another kid's birthday party playing games and laughing like one of the family.
There were a lot of moments swirling around me this week where I saw hurt and hate, and it took a lot of energy to respond lovingly. By the grace of God, I'm doing better than I used to these days. I had so many more opportunities this week to see God doing good and to give thanks for mercy and improvements. My feet are looking better, my legs are spasming less, and I'm still asking for everything.