About six years ago, I realized I had fallen into a trap. I had become an avid consumer of devotional materials… and a very poor patron of my Bible.
I spent a decent amount of time pondering theology and thinking on the meaning of God’s Word. But there wasn’t a whole lot of real reflection taking place because, to be honest, I wasn’t reading more than a verse or two at a time— and those verses had already been chewed for me.
In a season of life with a slew of babies and so much physical work to be done, it seemed easier, somehow, to sit down to a few paragraphs of upbeat “Go get ’em, girl!” encouragement sprinkled with a couple of lines of Truth than to crack open an actual Bible and wade through the same number of words. Life was full, and distracting, and frankly, I had somehow picked up the notion that there was A Right Way and then there was A Wrong Way when it came to reading God’s Word. Snatching half a chapter of Daniel while my kids were tidying their sock drawers had to be the Wrong Way. But a single page of a devotional book, well… that was fine!
Not that there was anything wrong with the devotionals I was choosing. Most were focused on being a wife, a mother, or a homeschooler. And they were all well-rooted in the Word, full of very applicable and rightly divided Truth. But they weren’t the Bible, and to be honest, after a while I relied on them to check off the little box I carried around in my head marked “Time in Scripture.”
But I wasn’t in Scripture.
I was in the thoughts of others, the writings of women who had been inspired by the reading of their own Bibles to illuminate for others the works of God. I had that same inspiration available to me, but in my exasperation and short-sightedness, I settled for milk instead of food.
I was choosing good over best.
I resolved to spend at least an equal amount of time reading the Bible as I did ingesting devotional writings. I can’t tell you what a world of difference it made in my spiritual life. I set myself free from the idea that I had to read a certain number of verses to “count,” or that reading in bits and pieces was somehow dooming me to Biblical illiteracy. I simply stopped reaching for the slick paperbacks first, and kept my Bible at hand. If I read a chapter of God’s Word, then I felt fine snagging the devotional and doing the same.
Today, while I am often encouraged by the words of others who have been given the gift of explaining Scripture, or finding fragments of eternal truths tucked in places not often visited in the Bible, my go-to is reading what the world calls the “primary source,” for myself. I can’t tell you the last time I read a devotional book by a modern author. I don’t feel like I need them, if you know what I mean. I’m not anti-devotional (though I admit to being very selective as to which materials I’d buy). Instead, I’m pro-Bible. My life is every bit as busy as it was six year ago, but with the added addition of the voice of God speaking into it daily.