An Idiot's Guide to Reading the Bible
At the beginning of every year, I think about what types of changes or growth I'd like to see in my life over the next 12 months. Nearly every year, "reading the Bible more" is at the top of that list. For a long time, I’ve believed that the Bible is filled with wisdom and power. Yet it always seemed incredibly boring to me. I'd try to read it with fresh eyes and ask God to help me see it in a new way, but it never took long before I’d give up. I knew the Bible was full of life, but I’d much rather eat popcorn and watch reruns of “The Wire” versus spending time in the Word. Can I get an “Amen?” In January of 2010, after 6 years as a graphic designer, I decided to finally put together a portfolio web site. As a way to hone my design chops and to have continually fresh content on my site, I decided I’d do some type of weekly themed design series. And being the beginning of the year, I was of course thinking about how I wanted to read the Bible more. So I thought, why not combine Bible reading (B-O-R-I-N-G) with something I’m passionate about (DESIGN!). And that is how Word came about.
With my Word project, I created a design for each book of the Bible, posting a new one every Friday. I also included some reflections on the book and design. Some designs are violent, some are weird and some are plain offensive, but so is the Bible, right? I completed a total of 91 designs (several books have more than one design) and have prints available of all of them. I've included a few designs at the end of this post or you can see all of them here.
I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned about the Bible during my Word project and also share a bit about how Word has changed the way I experience reading the Bible. This is not a prescription that will work for everyone. This is just what has worked for me.
- Let’s just admit it, the Bible is weird. This is something that you probably already know, but it became immensely clear to me after just a few books that the Bible is weird. Really weird. Many times, it feels like a David Lynch movie. There are animals that talk to people, bread that falls from the sky like rain and prophets that command bears to eat teenagers. This realization was refreshing to me. I tend to think of the Bible and most things spiritual as very prim, proper and reverent. Never confusing, humorous or, heaven forbid, weird. This book isn't always nice and proper and I think it's good to acknowledge that.
- The Bible is bursting with visual imagery if you allow your imagination to come out and play. When I read through a book preparing to do a design, I read it visually. By that I mean when I read, I’m imagining everything I’m reading as a movie in my head. Not just that, but I’m the director of the movie which means I can choose the angles, the genre and how the different characters say their lines. It’s amazing how much life that breathes into stories and passages that had become sorta stale to me. For example, David and Goliath. I’ve heard that story hundreds of times and really felt like there was nothing new there for me. But as I read through it this time, running the whole thing as a movie in my head, I noticed that there was a lot of smack talking leading up to the battle and that reminded me of how there’s smack talk leading up to a boxing match. Just that little thought led me down the path where the battle of David and Goliath became a boxing poster from the 1930s.
- Jesus is frickin’ awesome. Like, really frickin’ awesome. I’d always placed all the stories in the Bible on kinda equal footing. Elijah did some cool stuff. Daniel did some cool stuff. Jesus did some stuff that was a slightly more cool. But after finishing the Old Testament and starting the New Testament, I was struck by how completely unique Jesus was. No one else in the Bible is like him. No one is even close. I was so amazed by how different Jesus was that I ended up devoting 7 straight weeks to designs based on passages about his death and resurrection.
As I got going on the project, an interesting thing happened... people started to follow along. Then those people started to leave comments on my site. Then they started asking me how they could get prints of the designs. Before I knew it, this project had taken on an interactive dimension and that was really cool. In fact, many times I'd ask the awesome folks on my Facebook page for thoughts on what passage they wanted me to do for the next design.
I know most of you out there love reading the Bible, using your concordance and doing things like parsing the Greek and cross-referencing verses. But for those of you out there who are not wired that way, who may struggle to see the power in the Bible and sometimes may even think it’s boring (gasp!), I hope this project encourages you. After all, if a moron with an imagination can see the Bible in a fresh way, you can too. Can I get an “Amen?”
This post was originally published on the Pangea Blog on July 14, 2011.