The Discipline of Giving Up a Discipline

Revelations and New Year’s Eve. A Natural Pairing. 

Living Green in the Word
I told you, back on New Year’s Day, that my one word for 2013 is green. Green, I told you, means living (not dying), means new (not stale). Later I learned that Pantone had chosen emerald as its color of the year, but that’s a separate story for another day.

I’m greening up my spiritual practices. Because I discovered an idol lurking beneath the surface of a perfectly respectable, some-might-even-say laudable, spiritual practice.

Beginning in 2009, I read the whole Bible each year. I’d choose a translation and buy the book before New Year’s Day, print out my reading plan, and then dig in. I read the NLT. I read a chronologically-arranged Bible (NLT, again). In 2011 I read a parallel Bible, with AMP and the NASB side-by-side on every page. So yeah, you could say I read the Good Book twice that year. Last year I read the ESV Ryrie Study Bible. I even formed a little group on Facebook of like-minded folk, so we could encourage one another as we read through the books, through the months.

You know what happened? Reading God’s Word became a chore. I had a schedule, see, and I needed to keep to the schedule because, well, um, see. . . because I said I would. By July of last year, I found I no longer picked up my Bible with an expectant, joyful heart, with a hungry spirit ready to feast on Scripture.

Nope. I’d realize bedtime was approaching and that I hadn’t begun my reading yet. Sigh. Or I’d be reading along, and I’d catch myself wondering if the dryer had stopped. I’d think about what I’d serve for dinner the next day. I’d mentally review my in-basket at work.

I was plowing through the reading each day not because I was eager to immerse myself in God’s Word, but because I’d said I would.

Again. I think spiritual practices and disciplines are wonderful, godly things, when my reasons are right. But I wasn’t reading for deeper understanding, for wisdom, for guidance, to grow closer to my Savior.

I was reading each day so I could keep on schedule. Finishing those last words of Revelation on New Year’s Eve became the goal, an end in itself, one more thing to tick off on my list as “done.”


Leave it to why-yes-I-am-a-little-bit-OCD me: I’d managed to turn a time of communion with my Maker and reflection into a chore. Yay, me.  

This year, I’m disciplining myself to set aside the discipline. This year I chose to read The Message. And I’m reading when I want to read. I pick up my Kindle when I feel like nourishing my spirit with Scripture. I turn to the Word when I want to focus my heart on Christ, or when I feel like He has something to say to me. Usually, that’s every day. But I’m not beating myself up if I skip a day or two here or there.

 I read the words because like God’s mercy, they’re never stale, never dead. They’re new. they’re living. They’re God’s gift to me. That’s pretty green, don’t you agree?

10 With all my heart I have sought You;
Do not let me wander from Your commandments.
11 Your word I have treasured in my heart,
That I may not sin against You.
12 Blessed are You, O Lord;
Teach me Your statutes.
Psalm 119:10-12 (NASB)