In the early 2000s I watched a lot of crime/mystery dramas on television. You name it: Law & Order, the CSI franchise, Dateline NBC, Unsolved Mysteries and whatever else would keep me on the edge of my seat. I was very interested in the story lines, investigations, clues, and conclusions, but I started to realize these shows were influencing me long past their closing credits. The most apparent evidence of their influence was when my husband started traveling for work and I was alone in our all-of-a-sudden spooky, cold, dark, house. Usually a sound sleeper, I would hear every crack, every swishing leaf outside, and anything else – real or imagined – while my husband was away. Scenes from the shows I’d watched would taunt and tease me in the silence of the night.
Fed up with the sleepless nights and restless, anxious, irrational fears, I decided to quit the crime/mystery dramas cold turkey. After not watching the fear-inducing programs for several months I started to notice I fell asleep more easily – even when my husband traveled. I didn’t disaster-cast fear-based scenarios or worry about every little creak in the night. It seems so obvious now, but the entertainment I was consuming was having a negative impact on me and taking me into storylines that were not my reality.
Similarly (yet, not…), when my kids were little they started asking about country houses – why we didn’t have one and if we could get one. My kids didn’t have a large social circle, so I wasn’t sure where this desire for – of all things – a country house was coming from, but they all agreed we needed one. No one we knew had a country house, and that’s not even a term used in Texas as far as I know. Finally, after many questions, I had my answer. My kids thought we needed a country house because Curious George had a country house. Curious George lived in the city during the week and his country house on weekends, but he also took up quarters in our living room every morning at 9:30 a.m., thus the plea for a country house.
What we consume doesn’t just entertain or feed us for the moment; it forms our thoughts and our desires. It’s not an overstatement to say we are a product of the ideas we surround ourselves with. We become what we take in, for better or worse.
And there’s the rub. If we’re not careful, our appetites can leave us constantly pacified, but never satisfied.
Consuming is not bad in and of itself. We consume all day, every day – food, entertainment, news, theology, ideas, advice, etc. But the object of our consumption matters greatly. Very little of what we consume is neutral – there is usually a positive or negative effect of what we are taking in – even if the effects aren’t seen immediately. We will be formed, transformed, and influenced by everything we consume.
Consuming the Bible
According to researchers for the American Bible Society, roughly 26 million people mostly or completely stopped reading their Bible in the last year (you might want to read that number again). In 2021, about 50 percent of Americans said they read their Bible multiple times per year or more. Only a year later, only 39 percent say they read the Bible multiple times per year or more, resulting in the sharpest decline on record. Currently, only 10 percent of Americans report daily Bible reading. No wonder only a narrow gate is needed (Matthew 7:13-14).
Christians, it is imperative that we are consuming a steady diet of God’s Word, prayer, and Christian messages (in that order). We have a tendency to replace God with other pursuits, pleasures, and possessions. God understood this as He spoke to the Israelites who were prone to seek out to other “gods” even while God was speaking to them. God told them in Psalm 81:10, “Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.” God was inviting the Israelites – as He invites us – to consume Him and He would satisfy their needs.
There is a literary trope called hierophagy, which is used to signify the transformation of an eater into a divine realm. The word is derived from the Greek words for “sacred” (hieros) and “eating” (phagein) to describe the mechanism by which a character obtains divine access by consuming otherworldly foods. Think of Ezekiel or John eating scrolls in order to be given God’s heavenly knowledge (Ezekiel 3:1-3; Revelation 10:10). Or, think of Alice eating the “EAT ME” cake as she begins her adventures in Wonderland.
While hierophagy is a literary trope, we also have the capacity for sacred eating. It’s fully available to us by reading, studying, and praying, i.e. consuming, God’s Word. We can experience glimpses of the heavenly realms and gain access to the heavenlies when we ingest God’s Word – not literally like Ezekiel and John, but by daily reading and meditating on it.
Paul understood we would have many competing views vying for our minds when he wrote in Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing, perfect will.”
Time with God is not a box to check each day, or a blank to be filled in on a Bible study page. Instead, it’s divine fellowship with the Creator of everything. He knows you – all of you – and wants to be known by you. Reading the Bible is not a duty to please God, He’s not impressed by time offered to Him out of obligation (who would be?). Time spent in prayer and God’s Word is a time for refueling, igniting, trueness, and a time to love and be loved.
Our God is all-consuming, yet waiting to be consumed. I pray that you would pull up a seat to His banquet table and feast on the only Truth there is, the love that defines all other love, and the forgiveness that only He can extend. In His Word, we can be transported from the chaotic headlines of this world to the reality of God’s character, His promises, and the already-but-not-yet of His Kingdom.
Pastor Garrett Kell said, “One of the most dangerous things a Christian can do right now is neglect Bible reading. Thousands of voices are attempting to convince you how to think. Be certain, you are being shaped. More scripture, less social media. More Bible, less books. More prayer, less blog posts.” Even as I write this blog post, Amen.
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you…” (Isaiah 26:3).
Dear Lord, thank You for Your Word. May we feast on it and by the Holy Spirit be transported from the common to the sacred and holy. Lord, as we consume Your Word, may we be consumed by You. We love You, Lord. Maranatha! Amen.