Rooted in His written Word.
I’ve always been a reader. For as long as I can recall, books have been my escape from reality. As a child, I devoured series novels, particularly anything steady, predictable, and with a happy ending. I read all the Babysitter’s Club books, Boxcar Children, Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume novels. In upper elementary my grandmother took me to Prairie Lights, her favorite bookstore in Iowa City, and told me to pick anything I wanted. She did this often, even through my Goosebumps phase (which I’m sure made her cringe), she never judged. “As long as you’re reading,” she’d say. This particular visit I was drawn to the historical fiction section, noting one book stood out among the rest:
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.
The cover grabbed my attention. On it, a lonely yet mighty tree reached tall against the sky despite its surroundings in inner city New York. I took it off the shelf.
“This one,” I told Grandma. She was shocked, her mouth dropping slightly.
“Wow, what a great choice,” she marveled, while I’m sure thinking: Terrible child horror books to astoundingly powerful historical fiction? Who is this child? She didn’t argue and bought the book immediately.
Once home, I sat down to read. Page after page, I couldn’t quit until I’d read nearly half the novel. I was deeply drawn to the story of Francie Nolan, child of an alcoholic, living in an outer borough of New York among extreme urban poverty at the turn of the century. Francie, with little earthly belongings and often hungry, satisfied her soul in the pages of books. Words became her power and allowed her mind to grow, watering her roots and giving her strength to endure and rise above her circumstances.
The library became her safe haven, “The world was hers for the reading. She would never be lonely again.”
Adopting this same mantra, I ate up her words, her spirit. I too loved any place abounding with books, they were my protection, and also, my strength.
There is something about getting lost in pages, holding something within your hands that has the power to transport not only your mind, but almost nearly your whole self. Books teach us about history, how to relate to others while diving deep within to connect pieces of ourselves that we keep hidden, or maybe things we openly struggle with. Francie and I led very similar lives, it’s what connected me most to her story.
As I’ve grown, and later became a believer in Christ, I found this same power in the written Word of God. Pouring over the scriptures, finding pieces of myself within the pages, experiencing conviction and restoration, the story of Jesus pouring forth from Genesis to Revelation. Each reading waters my own roots, growing me closer to God and strengthening my spirit despite any surrounding earthly circumstances. Quieting myself entirely, allowing God’s Word to speak, chewing on passages I don’t understand and marveling over those I do. It’s a constant puzzle, this fitting of each piece as it’s revealed into the greater Story that is His. His Story. History. Truth.
I cannot get enough.
What I’ve come to realize about my daily time in the Word is this: His story doesn’t end and His truths unfold over time as The Spirit allows. His Word will always speak to us, if we continue to abide in it. Unlike a standard text, The Word is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates to divide soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Heb. 4:12, paraphrased).
It does, it pierces deep if we allow it.
The seasons I’ve neglected daily time with God have been felt. I become unsteady, anxious, quick to anger, tight-fisted, or apathetic to things that would break Jesus’ heart. Once these begin to creep in, I know the Spirit has gone silent within me. I then beg for Him to be loud, to be present, to overwhelm my heart and my thoughts.
Now that I’ve experienced this, I long for it.
It’s as though I am drinking from a fire hose after running a marathon- a mere trickle is not enough. In John 4:13 Jesus tells us whoever drinks the water He gives us will never thirst...that the water He provides will be like a well within us, springing up eternally. But there is a caveat. To access this well within, we must abide in Him.
His Word gives us free access to Him. It’s the true “neverending story,” one that continually teaches and constantly provides hope. It isn’t the predictable series novels of my childhood or the sweeping historical fiction of my youth, it is a story unlike any other- one that has grafted me in, given me life, and grows my spirit- despite the surrounding world and it’s desire to stifle and destroy. Much like the tree on the cover of Francie’s story, God’s Word will provide the living water we need to thrive in all circumstances if we continue to pursue and abide in it. In Him.
I picked up A Tree Grows in Brooklyn the other day, it’s cover worn and its pages yellow. Betty Smith’s novel is special to me but there is an even greater story I behold that hasn’t aged a bit. This story is one I keep next to my bedside, with me in my car, and in my hands as I walk into church but more importantly, it’s one I keep within my soul because not only is it His story, it is also mine.
Abide in me and I in you.
As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself,
unless it abides in the vine,
neither can you unless you abide in Me.