Ever since I was little I have loved stories.
My mom loves to tell about the year when dad was getting his Masters at Wheaton. I was two years old, and we lived in an apartment close to campus. Since dad was a full-time student, mom spent a lot of time just with me — playing at the outside playground, climbing stairs inside, and most importantly reading books.
My two year-old self would snuggle up to mom, captivated and content as she read. I could sit there forever. And sometimes we would indeed sit for hours, re-reading Winnie the Pooh over and over again. When Uncle Mike visited, he picked up mom’s role, and we would continue reading Pooh for the hundredth time. And it never got old.
After moving and settling in the Czech Republic, mom started teaching me how to read myself. She knew I would get Czech reading skills in school, but knew the importance of learning to read, write, and think in English too. We started with books like Go Dogs Go and Curious George, and before you knew it I was on to my first chapter books, The Boxcar Children series.
The years continued to pass, and at 13 I picked up the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. When we would vacation at the beach, I would bring a stack of books with me, and was content to sit under the shade of our campground and become immersed in the magical literary world. There was one summer that I managed to read one book a day for those 10 days! From George Orwell’s 1984 to Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, I loved stories full of adventure and danger, full of tension and redemption.
I have always loved being swept away in a glorious narrative that widens my perspective and opens my horizons.
But sadly, I was never really captivated by Scripture. It never drew my imagination, never grabbed my attention, never sparked my passion. Especially in my High School years, it felt very dull. The Pentateuch was demanding, the prophets were depressing, and most of the Psalms were disturbing. The Gospels offered some relief, but soon Paul was confusing, and Revelation was a convoluted mess. I had very little interest in the Bible. What did it have to offer me?
By God’s grace I found myself enrolled in a Bible college!
I still remember the first day in my Genesis class. It was August 26th, 2011, a little over 3 years ago. I had heard good things about the professor, but honestly wasn’t expecting all that much from the class. But when the professor opened the semester with a bold challenge to the students, I was struck as if with an arrow to the heart. That day I wrote down a prayer in my Bible in response to his challenge: “God, give me a hermeneutic of humility, in which I am primarily concerned with what the text is saying to us from its contextualized place.”
I had always approached Scripture asking what was in it for me. I had a hermeneutic (a method of reading the Bible) of pride. I had never known how to let the Bible speak to me on its own terms, and to allow God to use it to shape me.
That semester in Genesis was one of the most challenging and transformational seasons of my life. As I sat under this professor’s teaching, God’s story was enlivened like I had never experienced before. I had never heard the Bible taught so dynamically: where it was approached on its own terms, in all its beauty and messiness.
I was hooked. The whole rest of the semester, I was literally on the edge of my seat. The pages of my Bible filled with copious notes as I sat under the transformational Word of God being proclaimed through this teacher. I encountered God’s character like I never had before, was taught how to read Scripture, and was introduced to (what I now know as) Biblical Theology.
That professor was Dr. Andrew Schmutzer, and for the next two years I would have the privilege of continuing to learn from him through Hebrew classes, directed studies, and becoming his Teaching Assistant. We would talk in his office on a regular basis, and after dynamic conversations about the Old Testament and Biblical Theology, he would gently (but persistently) encourage me to look into continuing my education. At first I resisted, but slowly began considering the option. Soon we started talking about specifics, and he suggested Trinity.
If it wasn’t for Dr. Schmutzer’s teaching and discipleship, I would likely not be on the path I am today.
I still love stories. In fact, I probably love them more now. And no story is better than that in God’s Word. It has all the qualities of good narrative — adventure, love, sacrifice, defeats and victories, tension, miracles, promises, heroes, villains, and more. Yet it is the way that this story corresponds to reality that makes it so profound. The God revealed in these pages is real, and he desires His character to be known from them.
Now this is a book worth committing your life to!