At the age of nine, I sat on the porch swing with a neighbor girl holding my children's Bible between us. I showed her pictures in it and tried my hardest to win her over by making her a christian. I knew the steps. I'd seen the magic prayer chanted hundreds of times in church and knew it by heart. I didn't realize then that no one should be coerced into beliefs.
I viewed what I'd been told about the Bible as the law. Just like we weren't supposed to speed down the road risking a ticket; we couldn't refuse to believe these things without risking hell.
I felt surety in it. If someone had told me the saying, "God says it, I believe it, and that settles it!" I would have nodded my white blond head and wholeheartedly agreed. I honestly wish I could wholeheartedly agree now, it would make things much simpler.
But the trouble is, just because God said it, and I believe it, does not settle it.
It doesn't settle inconsistencies in scripture. It doesn't settle how we pick and choose what we deem important. It doesn't settle how if you attempt to follow everything in the Bible, you will find yourself stuck because it's impossible. You would be required to commit murder and simultaneously break one of the ten commandments. You would be convicted of disobedience if life served up anything but blessings; while at the same time identifying with Job. You would wrestle with women staying quiet in church and yet Paul enlisting Priscilla to teach Apollos.
The Bible is a wonder. I love the stories and hate them.
But I can no longer look at the Bible as a rule book. I can't see it as a list of laws to follow or a ladder to climb to godliness.
I love the way Scott McKnight describes it in his book The Blue Parakeet, he uses the word conversation. The Bible is a conversation and we, in our day and our way, are continuing the conversation. It's a story about God from many of God's children.
If you were to ask me, my twin sister or my brother to tell about an event that happened in childhood, you would get three different versions.
Why? Because we are three different people and what we remember will be influenced by our perspective.
God seems perfectly fine with loose ends in scripture.
The Divine doesn't seem worried that it doesn't all tie up in a bow. It's messy and it's allowed to stay that way.
If we viewed the Bible as an incredible story to help us have a word picture for God, God's people and God uniting us together through love, the Bible would be much less daunting. If we continued the conversations instead of solidifying one aspect, we'd be much less judgmental. If we could soak in the beauty of the story and be awed, we'd be more likely to view God honestly.
Just because the Bible says it and I may believe it, doesn't mean that settles everything. There will still be confusion about conflicting stories, or how culture changes, or issues of this day. But we can wrestle with it, share our concerns, and glean from the hidden gems. We can pursue a life with the intent behind the Bible, a pursuit of selfless love.