When Megan Swaim decided to read the Bible in one year, she discovered five ways it made her life richer.
At some point in the last eight years my personal prayer life started to fizzle. I’m sure it was exacerbated by some combination of prioritizing family prayer, having so little time to myself, and always being distracted and tired, but it started with a choice -- a choice made too many days in a row - to use the demands of motherhood as an excuse rather than a motivation.
In 2020, I watched from the sidelines as Meg Hunter-Kilmer led some of her Instagram followers through reading the Bible in one year. And from the sidelines, the excuses I’d made for too long started to taste bitter with just a hint of resentment.
I wanted to be the kind of woman who could read the Bible in one year, the kind of woman who makes Jesus a promise and then fights to keep it, the kind who can show her family how to make prayer a priority; but I could only be that kind of woman if I chose to be. So on a whim, just a few days before the New Year, I decided I was doing it: 2021 was going to be the year of the Bible.
I stopped using motherhood as an excuse.
I’ve had to make that choice over and over again this year. But every time I make the choice to read instead of turning on the TV, or to get caught up instead of falling further behind or quitting altogether, it gets a little easier to make that choice. I asked my husband and children to help me make it a priority and found a friend to do it with me and hold me accountable. We’ve helped each other all year to keep making that choice, and not just for our own sakes, but for our spouses and children as well.
My children started reading the Bible.
In the early months I would wake up early to do my reading; and as the kids woke, they’d wander into my room to snuggle up with me while I read. Then they started stashing their own children’s Bibles in my room so they could read Scripture too. We bought more Bibles this year because everyone wanted their own; we have a lot of them now, and it’s the one item that I never mind finding around the house instead of “where it belongs” because I never want to go back to a time when the Bibles lived on the shelves instead of in our hands.
I learned that I actually know very little of Scripture, and I want to know more.
I can’t tell you how many times I went to my husband, Bible open in hand, and said, “Did you know about this?!” Despite having a theology degree and more than a decade of professional ministry, there were so many important parts I didn’t know, parts I wish I had known. I had my favorite books, my favorite passages that I returned to again and again over the years, but there were so many parts of Scripture that I’d neglected. I think of it sometimes as having carried around these gifts for 36 years but not opening them; oh how glad I am that I didn’t wait another 36 years to open these books!
Some of my very favorite books of the Bible were ones that I’d never read before, prophets who were “minor” and history books that seemed too tedious with the descriptions of lineage and worship. And I can’t wait to read them again, to uncover more layers, to listen attentively to how the Holy Spirit is moving God’s people, moving me. I’ve learned that it’s not just about “knowing the story” of Salvation, it’s about meeting Jesus Christ, who is the Word Made Flesh, in the Word, every day.
My prayer at Mass is deeper and richer.
Reading the whole story has helped me be more present in Mass; I recognize more of the readings now and notice themes between the readings. I find myself being more attentive to the readings and the homily than I ever have been in my whole life ... and I have four young children! But the yearning is there, to hear the story again and again, to pay attention to what God is doing for His people. And when I come forward to receive Jesus in the Eucharist, I come with a much deeper sense of awe and wonder.
My heart was converted.
I’m a life-long Catholic, I’ve never not practiced my faith, and I’ve spent my whole career serving the Church. But this year spent reading Scripture has been like discovering my faith all over again. I’ve had to wrestle with God, with the parts of the story that were uncomfortable, even painful. I had to wrestle with myself and ask God to undo all the knots I’ve made in my life, to heal the wounds I’ve inflicted. I found myself in the Israelites, my brokenness and longings in the prophets, and so much hope in the Gospels. I’m not the same person who started reading on January 1.
I would love for you to join me next year. Would you like to read the Bible in a year?
There are a lot of different options -- reading plans, online groups, Fr. Mike’s podcast -- and I know you can find one that’s the right fit for you, or that you can fit into your life. Just be flexible with yourself. If you get behind, don’t give up. Give yourself permission to use whatever tools are at your disposal, whether that’s a Bible app, a podcast, a Bible study, or a really good friend to pester you and make sure you show up every day to meet Jesus in the Word.
Copyright 2021 Megan Swaim
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About the Author
Megan Swaim is an Indiana girl on an east coast adventure. A former high school youth minister, she now gets to minister full-time to her three young daughters and her husband Josh. Megan spends her days homeschooling at the kitchen table, drinking iced coffee, and exploring coastal Virginia.