The other day I sat down, checked my chronological Bible reading schedule on my phone, and discovered I’m supposed to be reading Ephesians today. Wonderful. I got my coffee, sat down, and started to read. Everything was perfect, but I got distracted. I tried again. Read two sentences. Skipped a few sentences. Felt guilty for my lack of attention. Tried again to read.
After about five minutes of trying to read something that is ordinarily not difficult and quite enjoyable, I realized that my problem wasn’t a lack of attention. It wasn’t that I needed a little fewer distractions. I didn’t need to confess any sin or lack of desire to fellowship with God. In fact, my problem wasn’t a problem at all.
How do I know that my problem isn’t a problem to be suspicious about or repented over?
I’m right with God, and genuinely happy to be spending time with him. I don’t need to feel guilty or give up being spiritual just because reading isn’t coming easily. In fact, I can have great fellowship with God, be word-centered (and gospel-centered, if you like), and, especially, thrive spiritually, even when my brain seems to have trouble reading and concentrating. When I adjust how I fellowship with God during my “low concentration days,” I find I am perfectly capable of enjoying fellowship with God. It just looks different from week to week.
Some weeks I read better than others. This is a week where I will be much better to meditate and ponder what is already in my heart. Putting arguments and lengthy passages together simply aren’t going to happen, no matter how hard I try to “battle my flesh.”
I have discovered there is a hormonal relationship between my Bible reading and my ability to concentrate. I am learning to enjoy seeing how each week, I seem to have a different strength. One week I can memorize quickly, another week, I can read for long periods of time. One week I need to spend more time thinking about what God has shown me in the previous weeks. Thankfully, I had the energy to write out the verses two weeks ago, and now appreciate being able to review them. Some weeks, my brain feels sluggish and irritatingly slow. Bible-saturated music can be effective at directing my thoughts productively. That’s also a good week to invite a friend over and talk about what God is doing in our lives. (even if my house isn’t quite clean yet. That’s hormonal too.) I don’t always pay attention, but if I do, I find I’m pretty predictable.
I have noticed that among those who are word-centered, passionate about God’s Word, and committed to encourage others to saturate their minds with Scripture (maybe that’s all of us at some point in the month!), sometimes we forget that READING isn’t the magic ingredient. In fact, we see so many words in the Bible to describe what we should do with God’s word.
Hear it, treasure it, think about it, remember it, enjoy it, memorize it, sing it, tell others about it!
I can do all of those things during a brisk walk, or while I clean my kitchen. I can start and stop, with a single thought running through my head, enjoy that thought written on a card tucked in my pocket, or decorated with sea shells and on my kitchen windowsill. I can be still with my coffee and children interrupting, read my short thoughts, thank God for them, give him my cares and questions, and then move on to the next thing. This is the season of distraction. Maybe it’s your season, too. Let’s enjoy it together!