Collecting the Pennies

by Meredith Storrs
I once heard a famous older preacher admiring a promise that his wife made when they married: she vowed to never miss a day of reading her Bible. The pastor then shared a story about a particularly harrowing hospital visit that was the one exception to this rule. He concluded his tale with the quip, “I gave her the day off.” And I absorbed this standard into my idea of The Good Wife.

This morning I sat in my bed with a 13-month-old playfully swatting at my Bible. Eagerly exploring cause and effect, the baby kept closing the book, looking up at me, and giggling. I responded with crazy eyes and a veiled threat in that singsong voice we reserve for pets and children: “If you want to have a good mommy today, you will let me read my Bible.”

And then I paused. And I thought about that preacher. Is this really the point of reading my Bible? To transform me into my best self each morning?

If you engaged in a statistical analysis of my life, I do think you’d find that I was more patient, loving, and kind on the days where I grounded myself in scripture. After all, Jesus has the words of eternal life. But where my positive attitude aligns with the number of verses read is a mixed bag of correlation and causality. Some days I delight in reading God’s story because my spirit is already drawn to him. Other days I come hungry and leave with a mouthful of saltines. Still others, I drag myself to the page out of duty and find deliverance.

Even so, the Bible isn’t a fix I need in order to get hyped up on morality. It’s an opportunity to encounter the God I so dearly love. It’s an invitation to “come, behold the works of the Lord,” to learn wisdom, and to be comforted in our affliction. Jesus came as the Word made flesh, and we are gifted with the Word bound in print. This book is Food and Friend, bound for us.

A different preacher (ok, it was Brian) encouraged me during a difficult season with this: “There may be some days where it feels like you really need a hundred dollars and all you can find is a penny or two on the ground. Pick up the penny.” His point was to take those small bits of scripture, those brief phrases of prayer or lament, that fleeting sense of God’s warmth from the winter sun—and savor them. These, too, are gifts from our good Father. And they still add up.

I am beyond thankful for the years where I had ample time and energy to really dig into the Word. During those seasons, I made a lot of truly valuable deposits into the bank, building out a theological framework and scope of understanding that allows me now to dwell on shorter, simpler sections of scripture with greater richness. If that’s your life stage right now (or if you are just having a really clear week), drink deeply from the well of salvation. Commit to a Bible reading plan this year. Ask a few friends to participate in a Bible study with you. Take the time to inhale larger sections of the Bible like the good food it is.

But there’s also no prize for most chapters read, no ranking of holiness based on minutes of quiet time. Though I hope expectantly for another season of deep study, I am reminding myself to take what I can get. With all the hurt that so many of us have experienced, especially in the last few years, I don’t say this lightly: God will not hang you out to dry. God sees your complicated caregiving responsibilities. He hears the battle raging in your mind. He knows the mounting pressure of dwindling supply and immovable demand.

And he still offers you riches in his Word. Even if you can only scrape together pennies at a time.
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