I just finished reading a novel by one of the best-selling authors in America. I had never read any of his work before but when I saw a book of his for sale for 25 cents on the used book rack at the hospital…well how could I pass that opportunity by?
It turned out to be okay. Neither exceptional nor barely palatable, but someplace in the middle. The basic story had great potential but much was lacking in the way it was written, both the turns of plot as well as the author's style. He had written very short chapters, usually 2-3 pages, making it easy to pause one's reading but also breaking the narrative unnecessarily. I chanced to see a current book of his at the grocery store this afternoon and noticed the same pattern. It must just be his style.
Last summer I read a book by another of America's premier writers, this one no longer among the living. A writer of a sterling reputation, whose work I had not read to that point in my life read. A volume found on the used book rack of the library for 25 cents…how could I pass that opportunity by?
This author had also taken a story with great potential, but he did amazing things with it. The contrast stands even more starkly when I consider that the central theme of each story was the same. A great storyteller can find treasure in a puddle of mud, but a great story in the hands of a great story teller is something that is absolutely marvelous.
I know of people who have their favorite books and they go back and read them again and again. Just this week I heard of a pastor who has a particular book that he has been reading for about 50 years. Whenever he finishes he just starts all over again. I don’t believe he is reading only that book, but that he is regularly picking it up to read a page or two. I even have that book among my collection and finished it early last year. An outstanding book…but I have other things of a similar sort that I would not get to if I was continually mining that one particular treasure.
And yet there is one particular book that I am re-reading, again and again, and that is my Bible. I'm following a plan that has me read the New Testament and Psalms twice each year, and the remainder of the Old Testament once each year. It is my third year on this particular plan. I read of a pastor who followed it for 50 years, which I thought was a good example for me to follow for as many years as God has me preach, and probably afterwards too.
One of the curious things that has happened as I follow this particular plan, especially when reading from the Old Testament, is that I find myself thinking, with a touch of sadness, that I likely won't read that particular section again for another year.
But a better thing that has been happening is that as I read and see a familiar passage, or see something new and precious that I don’t recall noticing before, is that I find my love for the both the story, and the Storyteller, growing.
The Bible is the perfect match of story and storyteller. It is the single greatest story told by the single greatest Storyteller. I'll admit that some parts of the Bible can be mysterious, some parts can be confusing and hard to read, but so much of it is pure gold. Pages that one longs to keep turning to see what happens next. Sentences, or even phrases, that one lingers over, reading and re-reading...pondering...before moving on.
Whatever else you may be reading, make the Bible the one book that you regularly pick up and read. A singularly compelling story, told by the Master Storyteller. Don't let the opportunity pass you by.