Not So Fast
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As a teenager, I felt deeply that I didn’t belong anywhere (which I know is not a unique experience). I had two major spaces where I was around a lot of other teens – school of course, and my youth group. I went to a church of about 1,000, so the youth group had something like 150-200 kids.
One Summer, they split us into small groups and did a contest where we could earn points for various good activities – attending the Wednesday evening youth worship gathering, service projects and – get this – reading chapters in the Bible. I think we got like 10 points per chapter.
Now, this was clutch for me because I love reading. I do now and I did then. And I’m a fast reader. So I went home that first week and read all of Genesis and Exodus and even half of Leviticus.
I showed up the following Wednesday with just over 100 chapters. My youth pastor didn’t believe me, so he quizzed me on what I’d read. When I passed, he awarded 1,000 points to my team. We skyrocketed into first place and for an hour or so, I was a hero.
I read a lot of the Bible that summer. But I don’t need to tell you that all that scripture didn’t do much for me, do I? This spiritual practice – reading scripture – was really more about me achieving a false sense of acceptance and belonging than it was creating space for the Holy Spirit to conform my story to the story of Jesus.
For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been looking at the purpose of religious practices for God’s people. What role do religious practices play in the life of faith? How do we keep from doing them to assuage some insecurity or cover over some wound in our own lives?