Messy Faith,  Personal and Spiritual Ramblings

Bible Journaling: Art Therapy for my Bible Scars

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In the bottom of my nightstand drawer sits my Bible. It is every bit the cliche of the “Bible collecting dust tucked away somewhere” that I always heard preached about.

In all of the writing I’ve done here on my blog about faith, I haven’t talked much about it: the Word…tucked away in the bottom of the drawer. It’s the hardest thing I think.

It’s understandable to struggle with faith. It’s understandable to take issue with church. It makes sense to have a hard time with abusive church leadership or people.

But to struggle with the very Word itself – that’s a lot harder to admit. It’s embarrassing.

It’s not that I’m anti-Bible. My very mission statement for this blog (and my life) revolves around Scripture. And in spite of all of the unanswered questions – the Word is still a big part of my life.

It’s just picking it up and reading it as a daily (errrrr weekly….um…monthly?) practice that is hard.

Addie Zierman captures this struggle so well on her blog:

If I’m honest, I’ll tell you that I’ve only read it in bits and pieces over these past couple of years. A chapter here. A verse there. I open this book because I know that it is Truth and Beauty. Because I know that it is water and I am thirsty. But I read the words, and they sound like the old days.

The rhetoric of Paul’s epistles and the cadence of the passionate voices of my evangelical youth sound the same to my ear, and now when I read them, I have a hard time separating memory from meaning.

I read it, and I’m fourteen all over again.

~For When You Have Bible Baggage

She says so poetically what I always feel when I sit there and try to muddle through reading.

On top of the Bible immersion I experienced growing up in a fundamentalist Christian home (four church services a week in addition to weekly chapel services in Christian school and daily chapel in college), I actively made the Bible the biggest part of my life.

It started out when I was 14. I entered a program at my church whereby the teen girls got “points” for doing Good Christian Things like Reading The Bible and Attending Church. If you got enough points, you got to go on special outings with the pastor’s family.

I wanted to fit in. I wanted to be noticed. I wanted to do the right thing. And so I always got the points. I always went on the outings.

Then there was the Scripture memory contests at high school ministry camp. At least one year I memorized the most verses. But it wasn’t enough. Because I knew how easy it was to cram to say a verse to a counsellor. Memorizing it – REALLY memorizing it, meant more. So I adopted a Bible memory program whereby I said those verses over and over and over. It went something like this: say the verse 30 times the first day, 25 the second day, 20 the 3rd, 15 the 4th, 10 the 5th, then five for a few more days. Then you say it once a week, then once a month.

I followed this plan for literally hundreds of Scriptures over the course of two or three years, on top of Reading-Through-The-Bible-In-A-Year plans – straight through one year, chronologically the next.

I was homeschooled, so spending 2 hours a day “having my devotions” was feasible.

It didn’t stop there.

In my free time, I took Bible verses and overlaid them on top of photos of nature landscapes for a screensaver on my homeschooling computer. I printed off Scripture and hung it on my bedroom walls. It was everywhere. In my brain. On my walls. In my heart.

The only thing I was more passionate about in those years was my piano playing.

The feelings I have about that time of my life are so mixed up and convoluted. Regret wouldn’t be the right word. Because God is good. There’s nothing “bad” about soaking up His goodness.

But my motivation was wonky. I did it all to be close to Him. To earn His love. To feel good about myself. To get attention. To be “more spiritual.”

Somehow God’s good Word and my own self worth got merged together. It was just as much – if not more – about me than it was about Him.

And then it changed. The dreams I thought I had crashed to the ground. The places I thought were safe were no longer. The people I thought cared about me turned into wagging fingers and accusing voices.

I was hurt. I did all the right things – all the Good Christian Things – and still they said it wasn’t good enough. When I stopped doing all the Good Christian Things and started asking the Big Hard Questions they said that I had “hardened my heart” and “rejected God.” And they said so with the Bible.

I fell out of the practice of daily Bible reading in my freshman year of college, when “daily devotions” meant waking at 5am and struggling to stay awake to somehow make time for this “Personal Walk With God” when I was already being inundated with Scripture 24/7.

I’ve spent the last 10 years trying and giving up. Trying and giving up. Trying and giving up. And then just giving up completely.

I’ve tried different Bible versions. I’ve joined Bible studies and haven’t finished any of them. I’ve tried audio Bibles.

And always it comes back to the same thing:

It doesn’t matter that it was friendly fire. It doesn’t matter what their intentions were. When you have had the Word thrown at you in abusive and hurtful ways, it’s hard to view it as anything but a weapon.

Their voices of pastors, evangelists, professors, and relatives cannot be quieted. They echo through my heart, bouncing off of the memories of chapel walls, Bible classrooms, and hurtful emails.

The notes in the margin remind me of when I was that very different person. I think it’s her judgmental voice that is the loudest. She chides me. She reminds me of all the ways that I am not her. Her favorite words are “you should be…” 

I try to quiet them and just hear His voice, but their voices join together and overpower me. I can’t shake the negative feelings of hurt, grief, guilt, and shame that they bring with them. My “Personal Walk With God” leaves me feeling nothing but frustration.

So I told God I needed some space. Not the most conventional of prayers, but I remember where I was when it happened. Standing there in my Kentucky kitchen in front of my washer. If it’s okay to say we need a break from our kids and sometimes even a break from our husbands, then is it that scandalous to say that sometimes we need a break from the Bible? Not like a running-away-forever break but just a stepping-away-for-a-while break?

I never stopped seeking Him. I sought Him through music, through church, through PWOC and other Bible studies, through MOMS groups and small groups. I never cut Him out of my life. I just didn’t know how to move forward with that dusty Bible sitting in the bottom of my nightstand drawer.

A few weeks ago, something changed. Well, I suppose it started before that, when Little Brother was born and my faith was strengthened. But a few weeks ago, we sat down with the Pastors at our new church. I told them my faith story. I told them I have some very big questions. I stood there in my kitchen holding my fussy baby and told them straight to their faces, “I don’t want to read my Bible.”

I also told them that I don’t want to stay stuck. I told them how I want to move forward and change and grow, but don’t know how to do that without going backwards – to where I was before.

Later that evening, my friend Kathryn asked a question about adult coloring books on her Facebook page in preparation for a blog post she was drafting. {25 Adult Coloring Books You Can’t Live Without}. One of her friends shared about a Scripture coloring book called Whatever is Lovely. This sent me Amazon link hopping for the next 30 minutes and by the end of the night I had ordered four new coloring books – all centered on Scripture. {Whatever is Lovely, Faith in Color, and Beauty in the Bible Volume 1 and Volume 2}

coloring books

I fell (back) in love with coloring and utilized it as a therapeutic endeavor when I was preparing for Little Brother’s birth. So this just makes SO MUCH SENSE to me.

This reminded me also of this “Bible journaling” craze I had seen bits and pieces of on Instagram. I admit it – when I first heard about it I sort of rolled my eyes and wrote it off as too “Christian Girl Instagram” for my taste. But after giving it a second look, I was overcome with a surge of creativity and suddenly had ALL THE IDEAS for verses that I want to explore artistically with Bible journaling.

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How I’m Pursuing Bible Journaling

I originally had picked out a new wide-margin Bible journaling Bible to buy, but after my husband didn’t seem too fond of the idea of buying yet another Bible, I realized that I have plenty of blank journals lying around that will work just as well (while giving me MORE room for the art and more grace for screwing it up and not ruining pages).

And just like that, after 10 years of trying to figure this out, it’s like the verses in Isaiah 43 say:

“Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.

Bible Journaling: Art Therapy for my Bible Scars - behold I am doing a new things

Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.”

And spring forth it has:

Bible Journaling: Art Therapy for my Bible Scars - Isaiah 55:11

(printable from From Victory Road)

Bible Journaling: Art Therapy for my Bible Scars - grace upon grace

(Printable from Plitter and Glink)

Bible Journaling: Art Therapy for my Bible Scars

Bible Journaling: Art Therapy for my Bible Scars

Now, I can view the Word as beautiful again.

Bible Journaling: Art Therapy for my Bible Scars - Beautiful In His Time Ecclesiastes 3:11

Also, the girls over at Middle Places are doing a daily Scripture writing challenge that I’m going to attempt to participate in.

I don’t know if I will ever get back to a place that looks like “daily devotions” or “quiet time.” But I can do Bible journaling. 

This is a really big deal for me. This is a huge game changer. This is a pivotal point in my life. This is a real live momentous breakthrough. 

Bible Journaling: Art Therapy for my Bible Scars - Romans 4:18

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