Rating: 5/5 stars
First this: God created the Heavens and Earth—all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss. –Genesis 1:1/2, The Message
Growing up, I knew both instinctively and practically conditionally that knowing the Scriptures was important. In the many years since then, I’ve learned that not just reading and examining them, but actually possessing a deep knowledge and understanding of them is absolutely vital; to my physical and mental well-being, as well as on spiritual, psychological, and emotional planes. In my formative years, as hard as I tried, I don’t believe I was fully prepared for such a massive undertaking, especially attempting to read the Bible in the manner I’d so chosen, off and on, in junior high and high school: straight through, chronologically. It occurs to me now (literally) that doing so in any other way most likely never occurred to me at the time. The most progress I made was probably to the book of Deuteronomy. Even if that’s an accurate memory, I doubt I understood half of what I was reading, and the little that I did grasp, or thought—at the time—I’d comprehended, I know now there’s a lot more to it. Seriously, a TON. As I’ve learned, and am continually in the process of learning, “…the word of God is alive and active, Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” –Hebrews 4:12, New International Version
Alas, I was not ready. I wasn’t mature enough to finish, let alone understand it. Or maybe, just maybe, that’s another lie perpetrated by the devil. Lies I’d swallowed naively, profusely, foolishly, and willingly.
Kindly usher in August, 2019: I felt the call. Finally, I felt the desire to read the Bible in its entirety. Not only that, I felt ready to do it, and to not give up. I wouldn’t attempt the feat chronologically, though. Of course not. Thankfully, the YouVersion app has what’s called the ”Blended” plan. It appealed to me primarily because the plan combined both New and Old Testament chapters, and in ways which made their counterparts more germane, and whose connections were profound, often fascinating, and usually enjoyable. Sometimes the connections were very clear (for instance, when OT verses were quoted or referenced in the NT,) but others were rather subtle, and most likely I wouldn’t have made said connection if they weren’t presented like they were. Now, the frenetic pace of this plan (most days contained two to four chapters,) and its setup isn’t for everyone, it worked for me in very impactful ways. My journey was not without certain setbacks, however.
Narrated mostly by Todd Busteed, and featuring extremely minimal background sounds or dramatic special effects, as well as precise voice inflections, Busteed delivered in pretty much every imaginable manner. His performance was everything a good voice actor should be: an utter lack of monotone, which has rendered many audiobooks dull, tedious, and in rare cases, unfinishable. More impressive was the balanced nuance of his voice. What do I mean by that? Nothing was ever over or underdone. The tones and mood matched that of the text, be it somber, solemn, poetic, or as in the book of Revelation, downright terrifying. The Bible, from start to finish, felt timeless and still applicable. In particular, the Old Testament naturally had a very antiquated feel, and I love that. Think about it: if Busteed managed to imbue the millennia old text with an unmistakable vitality, and made it fun (even fascinating,) in a time where everything’s vying for our attention—if he could accomplished all that, then that’s a job very, very well done. It was remarkable. What’s more, he has such soothing tones and textures that immediately transported me to its various locations, situations, and circumstances. It felt rather effortless, too, even though being a voice actor clearly isn’t. I was fully immersed in the conflict of Adam, Eve, and the nefarious serpent; in the midst of multiple holy wars; Job’s plight of suffering, tragedy, and eventual victory; the ministry of Jesus and His disciples; the numerous prophecies, found in the New and Old Testament.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
All things came to be through him, and without him nothing made had being.
In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not suppressed it. -Yochanan (John) 1:1-6, The Complete Jewish Bible
The “Blended” plan helped break up the monotony. In all seriousness, I don’t know if I could have seen it through, even if I’d found another audio option via the app and listened to it straight through. I love the plan that much. It also allowed me to recognize the plethora of similarities between the two halves of the text, which, I might add, consists of sixty-six individual books. Those connections weren’t always evident (sometimes the one had little to do with the other, and were, most likely, simply the next chapter,) but usually they’d touch on the same or similar topic, or were related in some manner, albeit sometimes seemingly dissimilar, abstract, or obtuse.
To my knowledge, Busteed’s original narration wasn’t intended to be listened to in that way. That was all YouVersion’s doing. The highest recommendation to both.
The Bible has had a lasting impact on a personal level, and on my everyday life in general. That’s not all. As a reader and one with a deep reverence for literature, there’s nothing quite like it. I’ll never forget the stories, nor the morals and meaningful teachings, be they through strict, straightforward commandments found throughout the Old Testament (of which there’s been said to be over six hundred,) or via the many well-known parables, of which Jesus was so fond. Every single one of them means something, and contrary to many popular views, they’re still relevant. One could argue, in fact, that given the time and world in which we live, they are more pertinent than ever.
When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. -1 Corinthians 13:11-12, NLT
Needless to say, the Bible changed my life, in ways that no book ever has and, I know, none ever will. Going forward, I’ll continually seek God and His Word. It’s the ideal start to each morning, a great accompaniment to coffee.
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error, correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living, so that the person who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good deed. -2 Timothy 3:16-17, Good News Translation
In summation, reading the Bible in its entirety was never about meeting a Goodreads goal I’d set for myself, or an attempt to check off another one of literature’s most beloved and/or challenging texts. Simply put, it was to grow closer to God, to learn from Him. I’ve learned, and am still learning, how to put all my trust, identity, and ultimately how to implicitly depend on God. It isn’t easy (nothing about this lifestyle is,) but the beauty of free will is that every day I wake up, I can choose to trust Him. That doesn’t always happen, but the process is ongoing. Thankfully, it is lifelong. Throughout said yearlong plan (with some setbacks, it was actually thirteen months,) I gradually realized that although I got a lot of pleasure from these “stories” overall, I didn’t just want to hear them, I needed them. I craved God’s Word more and more, not unlike a dehydrated mule lost in the desert, wandering from place to place, searching for direction. Staying engaged made a huge difference, and doing so transcended all areas of my life. Just as Jesus pursued me, I’ll keep pursuing Him.