I was reading on my Tablet when the music I was streaming suddenly stopped and there was a “ping,” alerting me that I had a new email message. Instantly, I stopped what I was doing and opened my email application. My fingers fumbled over the touch screen. I could feel the nervousness welling up inside of me. I had a feeling this was the email I had been waiting for, and I was anxious to read the reply that had been sent my way.
It had been a stressful few days as I communicated with someone in my work circle. The emails that we had sent back and forth had carried a great deal of weight and there was no way of knowing what this most recent email contained. It could be good news, I hoped, or it could be very bad. With mixed dread and eagerness, I tapped on the sender’s name and scanned the message. I would soon have my answer!
Have you ever experienced something like that? You are eagerly awaiting an important phone call or email, and you can’t wait to have the answers in front of you? I have encountered this situation numerous times in my life. I can remember dating online, and I would almost hold my breath before opening a new message from the one I was getting to know. I recall sitting on the floor of my bedroom, talking to a good friend the night the church consistory was considering hiring me as worship and music director. I told my friend that as soon as Pastor Tim called, I would have to hang up with her because I wanted to know what he would say. When I got the “beep” that alerted me to an incoming call, I said a hurried good-bye to her and turned my attention to my new caller, Pastor Tim.
I can also say that I have anticipated text messages as well. Often, this is the way friends contact me if they are on their way to my house to pick me up. A quick “I’m on my way” lets me know that I should get ready. I have the time to put on my coat and shoes and retrieve anything I might need. It also puts a smile on my face when I know that I will soon be in the presence of a good friend or will be going somewhere exciting.
I have noticed a sort of trend in these circumstances. As soon as I hear the alert on my phone, whether it be for email, Facebook, text, or call, I often jump to attention. The alert promotes a certain sense of urgency, as if to say: “Don’t you hear me? Don’t you want to know what I have to say?”
I think of how quickly I reach for my phone in those moments. Most of the time, it is as a result of curiosity. Is it a bill being sent to my email, a text from a friend, a nice comment on my Facebook page, or is it just my Green Bay Packer app. informing me of Jordy Nelson’s preparations for next season? Each time, for a split second, I wonder: is it good news or bad? Ironically, the alert for my Facebook utilizes a notification sound called: “Good News.”
Speaking of Facebook— I was scrolling through my newsfeed one day when I came upon this text offset by a nice graphic:
“What if we began to treat our Bibles the way we treat our cell phones? What if we… Carried it with us everywhere? …Turned back to get it if we forgot it? …Checked it for messages throughout the day? …Used it in case of an emergency? …Spent an hour or more using it each day?”
Instant shame and regret filled me upon reading this. Now, I will say that I read the Bible, and quite frequently, but am I attached to the Word of God like I am my cell phone? Sadly, no. Each morning, I will sit and read through three different devotionals I subscribe to online. I will read the Scriptures that correspond to each reading and contemplate any questions that are presented at the end of the devotional. Throughout the day, depending on what needs to be accomplished, I will reach for the Bible if I need to work on an upcoming service, research a concept for an upcoming blog, or consult a set of verses to meet a need personally or in my circle of friends. I may be reading the Word, but I’m not reaching for it with eagerness like I reach for my cell phone. Sadly, I am not desperate for its Words of life and comfort. If the Word of God is truly God’s words to me, I should be hanging on every word, right?
Recently, I was listening to a sermon by one of my respected mentors. He preached from the book of Nehemiah, telling the story of Ezra and his reading of the Word in front of the assembly. The people would gather in the square, and Ezra would read out loud from daybreak until noon. The passage in Nehemiah 8 states that “all of the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law” (Nehemiah 8:3). In language that we can relate to, it was as if they hung on every word. And to think, these people had plenty of time to check out and daydream. I mean, think of long summer days when the sun rises just before 5:30 a.m. In literal terms, this would mean that Ezra would be reading and the people would be listening for about six-and-a-half hours. And remember, they weren’t just listening; they were listening attentively.
The dedication of these people inspires me. If only I could devote that kind of time to reading and studying the Word! And the thing is, I do have time. The fact of the matter is, will I take that time to invest in the Word? I might not be able to sit for that length of time due to my commitments with work and such, but if I put forward the effort, I’m sure I could find a way to get into the text with a whole lot more dedication that I already put forward.
Reading the Word is so very important after all. The book of Joshua instructs the reader to meditate on [the Word] day and night, and to do everything written in it. Reading and meditating on the Word can bring encouragement, comfort, counsel, discipline, and such much more. Its Words are truly the best news one could ever internalize, and no “Good News” notification is needed to announce its truth. But only in spending time in the Word can one be obedient to do what it says. That takes time, dedication, and a certain familiarity with the text, hanging on each Word as if God were speaking out loud to me.
To be more invested in the Word— that is a challenge I am willing and eager to explore. I know my level of dedication may not flourish overnight, but I am willing to put forth the effort? Are you willing to do the same?