I remember the day I fell in love with the Bible. I was about 12 and my Dad gave me my first “real” leather Bible. He showed me how to use the concordance in the back – a list of key words and where to find them – and gave me an assignment:
“Look up some verses about Love and tell me what you find.”
So I looked up “LOVE,” only to find six columns of references, all in tiny print. Hours later I surfaced with several pages penciled full of truths and a heart full of God’s love. I had done my first word study, and I was hooked.
Decades later, I am more in love with God’s word than ever. It’s always there with what I need, whether rest or reassurance, courage or strength, direction or peace. But most of all, the Bible has come to be for me a place to be with God and get to know him. Sometimes when I read the Bible, I imagine myself sitting on a bench in a beautiful field and God comes and sits with me to talk. I thought I was the only person who felt that way until I started reading some of the Catholic Church documents on Scripture and found this:
“In the sacred books, the Father who is in heaven meets His children with great love and speaks with them; and the force and power in the Word of God is so great that it stands as the support and energy of the Church; the strength of faith for her sons, the food of the soul, the pure and everlasting source of spiritual life.”
(Dei Verbum 21)
I love that image of God coming down with love to talk to us through the Bible. It was hard for me, as a new Catholic back in the early 90s, to find myself among a lot of people whose Bibles pretty much gathered dust on the shelf. But I soon discovered that a lack of “bible literacy” did not reflect the desire of the Church (or, often, theirs). Over time, I discovered in the Catholic Church a rich fullness of understanding of God’s Word that went beyond anything I’d imagined.
Since those early days, I have worked to help Catholics read and understand the Bible so they can meet Jesus there and speak with him. I taught a Bible study in my parish for years, working out lessons and talks that later became published Bible studies. I had a role in starting what is now Catholic Scripture Study International. Starting in 2001, I worked with Jeff Cavins to build a Catholic Bible study program based on his remarkably simple and effective Great Adventure Bible Timeline seminar and learning system. It helps people read and understand the Bible by first learning “the big picture” of salvation history that ties it together. As Editor and Program Director, I helped develop new Bible studies and grow the program until it serves thousands of parishes across the U.S. and in a dozen other countries as well. God has used the program in an extraordinary way.
After several years focused on administration, I am back to writing and teaching and speaking. The world has changed, and today I’m surrounded by Catholics who want to read and study the Bible. I look forward to encouraging the kind of personal reading and meditating on Scripture that brings us into his presence in a living conversation that touches hearts and changes lives
Will you come into the Word with me? Sign up for my blog and join me as I seek to find “the Word within the words” of Scripture.
© 2013 Sarah Christmyer
Read about my journey to the Catholic Church in Donna Steichen’s book, Chosen: How Christ Sent Twenty-Three Surprised Converts to Replant His Vineyard.