I have had an ongoing love affair that started when I was in fourth grade, and it was not one you would expect from a 10-year-old girl.
I didn’t have a crush on a TV or music star. I wasn’t infatuated with the high school boys in the church youth group. Nope, I fell in love with words, sentences, paragraphs, and books. I fell in love with reading. I loved reading so much that when my mother announced we were going to the library, I would jump up and down and flap my hands like a bird’s wings. I couldn’t contain myself. For some reason books romanced me in a way nothing else could.
I still love the feel of books, the smell of books, even the way books look on a shelf. And today, I have a library-themed bedroom. Bookshelves line one wall, and the quote on the wall above my bed says, “Libraries . . . for those who love books.” The end of my day is sacred. I crawl into bed and open a book. I wonder, does my poor husband ever feel slighted?
So it is not surprising that I was enchanted by God’s story. My mother read it to me from a children’s Bible each night when she tucked me in bed. I have loved the Bible my whole life.
I joined a Bible memorization club at about age 11. We memorized Scripture verses and won prizes. Unlike today, mem-
orization of words came easy for me back then. I seemed able to soak them in like a sponge. And today, when life starts to wring my neck, those verses just spill out (much to my relief). As a child, the Bible felt like a warm blanket on a cold day.
In my young adult years, the Bible felt more like the rusty set of pruning shears that I used on my backyard bushes. It cracked and squeaked and cut me in just the right places. Instead of a warm blanket, it became a tool that cut off the rough and overgrown parts and shaped me into a more beautiful bush.
I remember the day, having just experienced a disappointing second miscarriage, when I wondered if God really was there and if he really cared. I was so hurt and angry at God; he is the giver of life, and yet he kept taking it away. I had been in the daily habit of reading God’s Word, but in my anger at God I had set the Bible aside, much like giving the cold shoulder to a friend.
After a season of pouting, my husband challenged me. “Just tell God you are mad at him and get it over with,” he said. “At least you will be talking again.” So I did. I told God I was hurt.
I then picked up my Bible, and the reading plan I had been using took me to John 15. The whole chapter is about pruning, and these are the words that jumped off the page: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name” (v. 16).
I was in a busy life season, on staff leading a multisite children’s ministry at my church. There was lots of fruit in this season; people finding their way back to God, and children experiencing church and the stories of Jesus—some for the very first time. This was fruit that God graciously allowed me to lead and be a part of. He had chosen me for it. And yet I was whining, crying, and begging for what I wanted when I wanted it.
I was cut to the heart and pruned that day. I wrote these words from God on a slip of paper and put them on my refrigerator door. Three months later I was pregnant again, and soon we welcomed my daughter into our family.
Now, in my middle adult years, the Bible feels like one of those HUGE football banners the cheerleaders hold up at the beginning of my son’s high school football games. The band starts to play and the football team comes running on the field and they run straight through the banner. High on adrenaline, they are up for any challenge on the playing field that night.
I am daily challenged by the words of God. These are the words that mark these years of my life: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39). Am I willing to trade my life to follow Jesus?
These words on a page are the supernatural words of God spoken into my every day. My blanket, my pruning shears, my high school football banner—all are God’s words to me.
And until I see him face–to-face, his words are the romance of my relationship with him.
Janet McMahon serves as church planter and community life director with Restore Community Church, Kansas City, Missouri (www.restorecc.org).