Sunday, April 6, 2014

Reading the Bible... And This Other Book

A few years back, I read the Bible for the first time. I got that YouVersion app on my iPhone and worked through a read-the-bible-in-a-year plan that paired Old & New Testament readings together each day. I finished the good book after committing just fifteen minutes per day for an entire year.

My iPhone Bible accompanied me to Sunday School. I could outshine any seasoned Bible student by finding verses at top speed. (There's a search box in the app.) And I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have achieved my goal to read the whole thing without technology. I still don't own a hard copy of the Bible.

But something about reading it that way made me doubt (even more) the wild stories I found inside. I remember telling my husband the story of Tamar: She tricks her father-in-law into hiring her as a prostitute which results in her becoming pregnant with twin babies, but she was supposed to be saving herself to marry her much younger brother-in-law after both her first husband and his other brother, her second husband, were put to death by God for being bad mammajammas. Tamar is able to prove that it was her father-in-law, Judah, that is her baby daddy and thus avoid being burned at the stake for the whole prostitution bit.

It was like spilling the best gossip ever. Since Tim has been to way more church than me, I thought perhaps he could explain.

Why is this stuff in there? Is my iPhone app messing with me? How could scripture possibly contain so many wing nuts and women of ill repute?

Tim didn't know. Frankly, I'm a bit embarrassed to bring this up on a Sunday morning. My pastor is a smart guy, but I don't ask. And so I put all of the off the wall Bible stories in that box where so much of my faith resides, the things-I-will-never-understand box.

I should never say "never."

Recently, I got this new book, Crazy Stories, Sane God by John Alan Turner. It retells that story about Tamar and a whole lot of other ones in such a conversational and humorous tone that I couldn't put Turner's book down. "Veggie Tales could never come up with an animated, child-friendly version of these," he says in his introduction.

Quite so.

After each retelling, several pages of commentary present insights and lessons that these strange stories can teach us. Even in the modern day, the crazy stuff has relevance! This book bridges the gap from "wow, that was weird" to "now I get it" with the perfect combination of comedy and poignant observation of the human condition.

So I kind of get Tamar now. At least, I think I do. It's something like: however messy life gets, it probably won't get that messy. God loves us, crazy stories and all.

John Alan Turner said it way better. Get his book and prepare to understand something you probably thought you never would.