An Invitation for Me

July 20, 2018

During my childhood, church was ever-present. My father was a pastor. Church was the sun around which we orbited. In church, I grew up hearing sermons about the Bible. For me, reading the Bible was another story—a confusing one.

One day, I was crawling beneath the pews when I came upon a book. The Living Bible was imprinted in gold over a forest green cover. I read page after page at random in that Bible. It was in a language I could understand. It was closer to the way people talked. At the time, I had no idea it was pointing me in the way I should go.

Of course, I grew up. Life got interesting. The Bible became less and less a part of the story I was writing. It’s not unusual. Most church kids have an arc that thrusts them away, but they will boomerang back—they will lose their religion only to find it again in a relationship with God. And it will be in a language they can understand. It will be true.

There’s no telling what signified the end of my wanderings and the beginning of my inevitable pull back to God. It was inevitable though. I see so clearly now how I was being pursued the whole time. One of the signposts was an encounter like the one I’d had beneath the pews of my childhood. This time, it was with a white and blue covered book. The Message was imprinted in shiny black. I began to read that book. My interaction with Scripture had always been a disjointed hodge-podge of promises and warnings before this. The Message was conversational—the Bible in a tone more akin to the oral traditions that carried it to the written page.

I wasn’t looking for theological nuances at that point. I wasn’t exploring the layers of doctrine. I was simply looking for a way back—one that felt true within me. The Message was a part of that story. It was my first awareness that the Bible had a narrative underpinning.

Fast forward a couple of decades, and I recognize that The Message was an invitation for me. It was one of the sparks that ignited a full-blown love affair with the Scriptures in all their layers. I can clearly say that I’m grateful for The Message. God used this work to spur a desire for the Scriptures that I’d never known. And knowing what I now do about the Bible, I recognize the improbability of it: Accentuating the narrative form of the Scriptures into a more common vernacular, the goal and primary distinctive of The Message, is a massive undertaking.

Now, my relationship with the Scriptures is an ever-present part of my life. It is the sun around which my life orbits. And I am grateful for the serendipity of the journey and the sparks that lit the fuse.

Brian Hardin is the founder and host of the Daily Audio Bible. His most recent book, Sneezing Jesus, considers how the humanity of Jesus can shape our life of faith.

Other Reflections in Honor of the 25th Anniversary of The Message

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An Invitation for Me

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During my childhood, church was ever-present. My father was a pastor. Church was the sun around which we orbited. In church, I grew up hearing sermons about the Bible. For me, reading the Bible was another story—a confusing one. One day, I was crawling beneath the pews when I came upon a book.

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The thought of sitting at the table with Eugene Peterson had been on my mind for days. It was hard for me to wrap my mind around the thought that I would have the privilege of sharing a meal with a man whose influence in my life stretched back over decades. In my estimation, he had risen to the ranks of Christian “royalty.”

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It is truly impossible to quantify the impact of Eugene’s ministry on my life and ministry. I was introduced to him when, as a young pastor, I asked another pastor to recommend something to read devotionally, to supplement my usual Bible reading. He pulled off his shelf a worn paperback version of The Message, Eugene’s…