When I was growing up in two-story home in the southern suburbs of Lincoln, NE, my family listened to three radio stations: KGOR, KMEM and KGBI (eventually we added Cool 105.3 and KLOVE, but initially there were only three. I didn’t discover the full spectrum of radio stations until I got a walkman at the age of 10).
While KGOR played the best of the oldies, KMEM (The Memory Station) rounded out my musical repertoire with hits like Jimmy Dean’s “Big John” and Harry Belafonte’s “Day-O.” KGBI played something even safer (at least by my parents’ judgement): Christian radio and talk shows, one of which was Back to the Bible.
I didn’t really tune in much to Back to the Bible. I was in more of an “Adventures in Odyssey” phase of life (not realizing that the word odyssey referred to anything other than a small town that housed an ice cream parlor where life’s crucial lessons were learned and time travel occurred). Still, Back to the Bible, like Focus on the Family and Insights for Living, was a part of the hyper-Christian context in which I was raised. (There was also a brief Dr. Laura phase, but I try to block that out as much as possible).
I grew up doing family devotions and going to Sunday school and Vacation Bible School (the fact that anyone does not know what the letters VBS stand for still takes me by surprise). I sometimes had to finish a daily Bible reading before I could play outside or memorize an appropriate passage of scripture as a form of punishment (I can still spout off just about anything you want to hear about unwholesome talk coming out of your mouth or the taming of the tongue).
Religion and Bible classes was a part of my daily education from Kindergarten until college (at which time those courses occurred on an alternating schedule of Tuesday/Thursday Theology and Monday/Wednesday/Friday Christian Spirituality). I was a Bible study leader, theology tutor, campus ministries coordinator, and a Sunday school teacher. I have written exegetical papers, memorized large portions of the NIV, taught classes on praying the Psalms, and done more book studies than I can recall.
Despite all of this, I have not really read the Bible for years. I’ve read books and listened to teachings about the Bible. I’ve downloaded apps on my phone and texted proverbs to my siblings. I’ve started multiple reading plans and looked up lectionaries, only to fall off the wagon when my schedule changed or I just plain got bored.
Christians believe that the Bible is “living,” by which they mean that it has continual relevance and applicability no matter how dated it becomes or how often you read it. It’s like that movie you’ve watched every year since you were five. The one that never gets old and always seems to ground you in who you are and how the world works. Or like those songs whose lyrics seem to deepen as you age, as your life finds new meaning for concepts like brokenness, heartache, belonging and peace.
I did not used to be the sort of person who liked to re-watch movies, re-read books, loop the tracks of a CD. I didn’t even like having a “go to” order at a coffee shop or a restaurant (which meant that ordering anything always took me forever…sometimes it still does). It seemed like a waste of time to return to something familiar when there was so much new to see and try and taste and explore.
I am still learning the balance and importance of both—of discovering the unseen in the well-known and the familiar in the foreign.
I want to keep this in mind as I go back to the Bible the first time in a long time. I am excited to see new things and eager to be reminded of old truth; to find new shapes and descriptions for a God who has come to seem amorphous and remote, new explanations for human frailty, new hope for daily distress. I am not sure if I will find any of this, but I am fairly certain this is the best place to start.