For some reason, I have decided to read the Bible.
I haven’t read the Bible in years. The last time I did, I was in high school at a stuffy all-girls Catholic school. I did try a few times after that because someone on the Internet said the Bible is one of the best literary works in the world. And as someone who says she loves to read, I was too proud to not have read one of the best literary works in the world. But I never got past the creation story.
My mind simply associated the Bible with too many unpleasant memories.
Every time I saw the phrase “the Lord,” all I could see in my mind’s eye was a young Fidel Castro sitting on the balcony of a dusty countryside villa with a concrete balustrade and mint green walls. The God in the Bible, or at least the God that was presented to me in Catholic school, simply sounded like a tyrannical dictator who told you to do this, do that, don’t do this, don’t do that, or else I’ll punish you. Eh. Doesn’t sound like much of God to me.
Every time I heard the words “sin” and “suffering” and “pestilence,” I cringed. I still do, but now I remind myself that those who were inspired enough to write this little library of books thousands of years ago may not have meant it so literally.
The physical book itself isn’t even that appealing to hold. Plain beige cover. Sometimes, it’s plain brown. The paper is way too thin it gives you a mild bout of anxiety every time you turn a page. And the serif font is too small you have to squint every time. Yes, I judge a book by it’s cover.
See, that’s what I had associated the Bible with for most of my life. It’s the book you HAVE TO read because someone told you to.
That someone could be anybody. It might’ve been the priest. It might’ve been Sister So-and-so, whom you never listened to during basic ecclesial community sessions because you were always wondering what her hair looked like underneath her veil. Or it might’ve been the unfriendly religion teacher who pretty much drilled into my head that going to mass and reading the Bible was my duty to humankind and if I didn’t do those things then I was a bad person and I was going to hell.
And you know me. Every time someone says I SHOULD do something, I run the other way. I simply have nothing in my system that will compel me to do anything that someone told me to do. I don’t obey. I don’t follow the rules. And when I actually look like I am following the rules, it’s mostly because I WANT TO. Some of the time, it’s because some part of me still thinks I have to, but when I get hold of that and release that, then there’s no way anyone can make me do anything I don’t want to.
Out of curiosity, though, I downloaded the Bible app and began virtually thumbing through the passages. I didn’t want to start reading from beginning to end. I had done that many times, and I always fell asleep through Genesis.
I went through random books reading random passages. There was one chapter in the Book of Ezekiel about the people of Israel melting in the fiery wrath of the Lord. I read the entire thing and quickly looked for another book. I’m not ready for hellfire just yet.
But I did find something encouraging. And it’s because of this passage that I decided to read the Bible again tomorrow.
Here it is from 1 Peter 4: 10-11:
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.
If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” I’m still not convinced with “praising God through Jesus Christ.”
I still have far too many thoughts about people putting a separate entity on a pedestal and making that entity responsible for their lives. (Hint: I don’t believe we are separate from God.) And I have yet to get over the fact that Jesus Christ is portrayed as a Caucasian with soft pink lips and glass-smooth skin.
Other than that, though, okay, I’ll keep reading.