Earlier in the day, the trout on Rock Creek almost jumped into my creel. I’d parked alongside the road and hiked overland to a rarely fished stretch, not another fisherman in sight. Anywhere. I loved both the solitude and lack of competition. The first hole yielded a small brown, maybe 8”, who likely appreciated being returned to his frigid home.
He was the first of twelve trout caught in just over two hours that day; two were keepers at 14” each, and provided dinner for Sheila and me my first night back. Pizza at the campground’s café and a hot shower seemed to top off the day. But God was yet to surprise me.
Relaxing in the small cabin, the novel I’d been reading for pleasure began to bore me, so I pulled out my J.B. Phillips version of the New Testament. Now, you gotta understand the context. I’ve read the Bible a lot. Pastoring for several decades, writing Christian books, teaching in a Christian school and an adult Bible study class tend to encourage that. And, even though much of the reading is “professional,” I always ran the text through the grid of my life before sharing it with others.
But this differed. It had no purpose, just relaxed reading at the end of the day. Two weeks later, I can’t even remember the passage. But within several verses, I said, out loud, “Hello again, old friend.” Luckily, I was alone in the cabin. A title by C.S. Lewis expresses the effect well, Surprised by Joy. The level of pleasure, of joy, of satisfaction, of contentment, absolutely amazed me. Not particularly being a masochist, I kept reading for quite some time, basking in a nice connection with God through his words.
In the moment, I just enjoyed the joy. In the six hour drive home I puzzled over why it hit me so hard. I suspect the joy came from the reading being non-purposeful. I had no goal in mind whatsoever. No text to understand, no grammar to consider, no cross references to explore. Just to spend some time in God’s word, only to experience the author in a totally unanticipated manner.
Our Bible lesson in the adult class just the Sunday earlier explored Philippians 4:4, “rejoice in the Lord always, again I say, rejoice.” I kind of misled the class, as we looked at how we can rejoice in all situations. That’s true. But the text commands us to rejoice in the presence of God, in who he is, and for no other reason.
So, sometimes, just read. Have no goal but to read. And see if God doesn’t show up.
Kick Starting the Discussion
Have you had a similar startling experience? How often do you read the Word just to read it, apart from any goal? Do you think that God is more apt to show up if we have no other purpose than time with him? What keeps you from doing this more often?