Do you know entire series of novels—hundreds or even thousands of pages—like the back of your hand? Do you know all the characters in The Chronicles of Narnia (1,632 pages), Harry Potter (4,167 pages), or The Lord of the Rings (1,536)? Could you recite the story, recall all the plot twists, and discuss the motivations of its heroes and villains in detail? Have you been shaped by the beauty you saw there, inspired by the characters, or simply enjoyed the time you’ve spent with it? Have you seen the things around you in light of that story, such that bits of it returned to your mind automatically when you faced similar situations? Have your actions in life been affected by it?
Why do you know that series so deeply? Because you intentionally studied it? You took classes on it? There were tests? No. Because you read it. Repeatedly. That’s how it became part of you.
That was the eye-opening insight I had several years ago about the Bible—my “aha” moment. If simply reading and listening to my beloved novels over and over (series that were at least as long as the Bible) with interest, love, and anticipation caused me to know them inside and out, then why would the Bible be any different? In fact, why wouldn’t simply reading the Bible (as I had these other books) have an even greater effect on my mind and soul as the inspired Word of God, something the Holy Spirit actively works through?
I had never studied any of these novels. I had never intentionally set out to learn all the details. Yet I knew them. That’s when I realized that the key to making the Bible part of me was the same key that made the Narnia series part of me: reading through it. Repeatedly.
If your Bible intimidates you, consider this question: Do you know a series of novels well? Then why look at your ability to know the Bible any differently? Why see it as overwhelming or even insurmountable? Why assume you could never read it—not even once, and certainly not over and over? Here’s the reality: A basic ESV Thinline Bible is only 1,120 pages. Even the ESV Reader’s Bible, which is formatted like a regular book (single column, larger font, no verse numbers or headings, etc.), is only 3,364 pages—still shorter than Harry Potter!
Just imagine what would happen if you began immersing yourself in the Bible as you have these other series. Simply by reading through it over and over as you would any cherished book, you would come to know it. Your understanding would increase exponentially. Your familiarity would foster love not just of the Bible, but more importantly, of God himself as who he is and what he’s done seeps into your very bones. This, in turn, would change you.
If you have ever come to know another series in a deep way, you already know this kind of knowledge and shaping of your soul by simply reading a book over and over is possible. Stop putting pressure on yourself to read your Bible while taking particular notes or studying particular commentaries each and every time. Learn the basics of how to understand the Bible, and then just start reading! Yes, there will be a time and a place for commentaries—we can always deepen our understanding by learning from others—and notes will come organically as your insights grow. You can still focus on shorter passages at times, enter into intentional study, memorize, and take classes. All of these things are also valuable. But for now, just start reading.