Last January, I charged into a "Read-the-Bible-in-a-Year" plan like a souped up race horse breaking onto the track. It wasn't the first time I had tried the goal, but this time, I was determined to complete it.
Imagine how deflated I was to find myself starting again in April. Let's just say that this time I trudged out of the gate like a Belgian draft horse pulling a Levitical plow. It has been slow going, but I keep telling myself, "Slow and steady wins the race," or at least wins a sharp Sunday school lapel pin for managing to "stick to it!"
Why has this reading plan been so difficult? After all, I read a user-friendly version. I grew up hearing Bible stories and memorizing verses. I was a literature major, so I obviously enjoy reading. If you asked what book I'd take to a desert island, I'd reply, "The Bible." And I've received much guidance and comfort throughout my life from this book.
I do what I can to remind myself, placing my Bible on my nightstand, slipping it into my purse to read in waiting rooms, packing it on trips, sticking it in my tote bag, plopping it into my car -- it's always with me. Yet, I often find myself walking by it on the coffee table. Somehow, there's always one more laundry load or phone call or three more hours on the Internet before I can pick it up.
Unfortunately, my reading has been more of an exercise in discipline than an experience in learning and worshiping. And while there's nothing wrong with practicing diligence, my heart has not been fully engaged. It's like I've been reading a textbook account of an event as opposed to reading the personal letter of an eyewitness.
Although I was frustrated last April, I'm glad I didn't quit. Now I'm in the race with two goals: to finish my year-long project and to be transformed, which makes all the difference.
If you've recently set goals, don't be discouraged about false starts and distractions.
Remember how the rebuilding of the Lord's temple was stalled time and again. Zerubbabel, Jerusalem's governor, met lots of opposition as he began the project, but God sent the prophet Zechariah with encouragement: "Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin" (Zechariah 4:10).
When setbacks come, don't let them rob you of your confidence. When you fall, don't berate yourself for having leapt. Remember that failures have potential to make you more dependent on Christ, our ultimate strength and the only real measure of success.
Linda Crow, of Muncie, is the mother of three teenagers and works in youth ministry. Visit her blog at www.2nd-cup-of-coffee.blogspot.com.