I began reading the Bible in 1985 while still living with my mother. The arrangement was a symbiotic one. She provided a roof over my head and a quiet environment. I provided money for her groceries and expenditures and later became her chauffeur.
On Sundays we attended church together. We both dressed up in our best clothes, got into my new AMC car, ironically a brown Spirit, and arrived at church 30 minutes early to get a good parking spot. At this point, Mama, who was now in her 70s, had gained a lot of weight and had become frail, wobbly, and walked with a cane.
Each year, it seemed more and more clear that Mama's and my interest in church were completely different. Mama was a social butterfly with friends she loved gossiping with before and after the service. She especially loved pot lucks and coffee hours where she talked and nibbled with equal enthusiasm. During the sermons, however, she would excuse herself from all church related contemplation. As the mellow voice of the minister dropped into an appropriate pitch, Mama's eyes would narrow and her small plump body would sink slowly into the curves of our shared wooden pew.
Although pot lucks and coffee were essential in getting me to church at the beginning, by the time Mama had started snoring through the Amens and Hallelujahs I was hooked on something much deeper. The years of Mama and me attending Bible Study had sparked a desire to know more and an interest in being able to visualize the evolving history and significance of the New and Old Testaments. Instead of jumping through chapters and verses with a room full of people, I wanted to be able to piece together a whole story that made sense to me, that explained why and how the star of the show, Jesus Christ, had become so important to me and others.
And so I began to read the Bible starting with the Gospel of John, then the Psalms, the Proverbs, the New Testament, and finally the Old. It was a program offered by my minister that took about a year to complete. I would read on my own, underline sections, place stars by parts I especially liked or didn't quite understand and, at least once a month, make a visit to the church office to discuss my thoughts. A story with characters and colors began to emerge. As I gained context and insight, the chapters and verses were no longer isolated and separate from me but drawn onto a canvas inside my head, at first a series of pictures I could see, then stories I related to, then a connection to a philosophy and set of ideas that seeded my values, and then, all of a sudden I was immersed and surrounded by what felt like the realm of the sacred.
As I moved through the hundreds of pages reading small sections day after day I experienced a richness and depth I'd never had before. A confirmed bookworm had discovered the ultimate book with beautiful writing and words that spoke to me. I was beginning to see the world beyond the confines of a small, sick mind; beyond the myths I had created for myself. It was easy to feel that God was speaking, sharing what He wanted for me. For the first time, I began to experience myself as something more than just a biological being routed in my material, experiential surroundings. I began to feel as if part of me was spirit and that this spirit existed in me because of God's grace and kindness.