~ Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix
His name is Carl. At least that’s what I’ll call him.
We sat in what I call the “Nook” in the Vineyard bookstore (BookCellar) which essentially functions as my “office” for at least half of each work week. It’s a place of words, either written, read, or spoken. In this case spoken as Carl tells me his story.
Raised LDS. Married in the Temple. Missionary. Divorced. Disillusioned. Searching.
And now perhaps on to something, but what?
Carl found himself being dunked in the Boise River at our annual river baptism in August. Now he seems to be asking “What the hell happened in that river?” What does he do now? What does this mean? He’s done the religion thing, and that has no appeal. He’s done the irreligion thing. Just as flat. Is there a third option? And if so, what does it look like?
I listen and then I share my experience. Fifteen-year-old youth devouring the 1189 chapters that make up what we know as the Bible. Said boy counting up the number of chapters in the New Testament (since there was no Google to Google in 1975 – and the answer is 265 chapters) and then calculating how many chapters a day he would have to read to get through the New Testament in a week, two weeks, a month, and then doing that at about that pace (take your pick) for at least the next decade, with the Old Testament thrown in for good measure with a read through every six months.
Ferocious appetite, and one that ultimately landed me in the New Testament Epistles. And there I camped. In fact, I memorized them all over the next twenty years.
And then I told Carl the story of St. Francis – at least as best I could remember it at the moment.
Stripping himself naked.
Taking hold of the Gospels.
A simple devotion: read the Gospels; do what you find there.
I tell Carl I wish I had been told that story when I was fifteen, as I was telling him right now. I tell him I wish I had put all that reading and memorizing energy into the four Gospels.
“How many chapters are in the four Gospels?” I blurt out.
A quick verbal tally.
Matthew – 28
Mark – 16
Luke – 24
John – 21
That’s 89. Jesus. In 89 chapters. I laugh. And I was pouring so much effort into mastering 265 or actually all 1189…
Carl, I can’t tell you what to do, nor would I presume to provide you with a formula to spiritual growth and maturity. There are plenty of books in here that will do that for you. Just pick one. “But if you would be perfect,” go, strip naked, and take the four Gospels. Three chapters a day. Day after day, week after week, month after month, for the next year. Then I would like to see you this time next year so you can tell me just how badly Jesus has screwed up your life – because he will. This journey will ruin you, undo you, redo you, reshape you. And you will hate much of it.
Just the Gospels. One year. Every month. Leave the other 1100 chapters alone. They will come later. And when they do they will screw you over again, big time. By your own admission, in your former religious life you had at least one too many books. Welcome to the club.
Take the Gospels.
Do what you find there.
And I did such a good sales job that I sold myself.
The hardest part? Easily it’s the stripping naked part. I’ll be working on that one for a while.
But in the meantime, as I strip, I’m just taking the four gospels.
Three chapters a day.
Even in Greek that’s a piece of cake.
Ahh, but now the doing what I find there. Yes, now that will take some doing.