Hi. My name is Tricia, and I have not always loved the Bible.
I mean, I wanted to love it. I felt like I should love it. But I spent a lot of years of my life feeling like I was reading something meant for someone else.
That sounded like the opening sentence of a twelve-step program, I do realize. But I have a growing awareness of a tiny black pearl of a secret, and I suspect a lot of us are carrying it: In our private heart of hearts, many of us secretly feel like the Bible is boring. It seems to be irrelevant, questionable, meant for someone else living a much holier or more religious life than ours. That kind of secret doubt can make us feel like we need an anonymous support group fueling its members with acceptance and strong coffee.
Here’s me raising my coffee cup. Cheers.
Perhaps that is not quite how you expected this email about the Psalms to begin. Perhaps you are feeling right now that I should begin with stories about mission trips and sacrificial giving and spring-break fasting. But I’ve discovered that living and loving the Bible right where I am in my everyday life looks a little—or a lot—different from what we all may have expected.
I am not a seminarian, an academician, or a theologian; I am not a Bible teacher or even a Bible scholar.
I am a lover of messy people, a tarbled mom of two teenage boys who are often late for school and wearing mismatched socks. My vacations are not called mission trips; I have been known to absentmindedly doodle in the margins of overdue library books; I have battled depression and anxiety to degrees that have nearly drowned me; I have begged the Lord for miracles that only he could provide; and somewhere in the midst of all of that, I fell hopelessly in love with the Word of God as a light for my next step and the air for my next breath.
And the Psalms have been one book that has truly ministered to me. When I lost my first husband (more on that next week), I struggled to read God’s Word. One day, I delivered my little boys to preschool, and I packed up my pens, my journal, and my Bible, and I went to Starbucks. I ordered my decaf grande salted caramel mocha, I took a spot at the corner table, and I waited. I waited for words. I waited for feelings. I waited for presence and goosebumps and inspiration. But just because I showed up didn’t mean I knew what to say.
The Bible still seemed so foreign to me, a treasure map I couldn’t read.
I didn’t want the Old Testament stories. (See previous point.)
I didn’t want the New Testament stories. (See previous point.)
So I started somewhere in the middle. The book of Psalms.
The Psalms are a great collection of songs, poetry, and prayers written by many different writers, and together they reflect the heart, soul, and emotions of humanity. Martin Luther once said that this book “might well be called a little Bible,” since it holds “most beautifully and briefly” everything that is in the entire Bible.[i]
The book is entirely void of clichés, which is maybe my favorite thing about it. As we read through the Psalms, we’ll find writers saying the honest thing, not the easy thing. They are honest as they cry out to God from the deepest moment of their darkest night, and we will also find them honest as they sing in the heights of celebration.
This practice, this pouring out of words, doesn’t guarantee healing or a softer heart. But it is a path to honesty.
When we rely on empty words and recited phrases that we’ve repeated for decades, we limit our communication with God. Sure, he hears our words and he understands our attempts, but he longs for genuine communication. Since I am a longtime avoider of small talk, one who dives deep and fast, I like to think that our desire for authentic conversation is part of being made in the image of God. He knows us, and he wants us to know him.
I have learned this about God—he doesn’t let us languish in monologues. He’s a conversational God.
As we learn to listen, as we speak out the words of our deepest pains and longings, eventually, we hear him speaking back. The path to any level of understanding must begin with honesty, and the psalmists pave the way. They show us how to tell God the truth about how we feel, what we’ve done, where we’ve been, what we love, and what we need. We can borrow their words until we find our own.
[i] Martin Luther, Preface to the Psalter; accessible here: http://www.wolfmueller.co/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Prefaces-to-the-Books-of-the-Bible-with-cover.pdf.
Over the past year, we have collectively faced a lot of challenges.
- Have you allowed yourself to be honest with God about your struggles?
- Have you listened to him “speak back”? What have you learned about God throughout this time of difficulty?
Let’s keep the conversation going.
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