You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 3:15

It was the first Sunday of the year. I had just turned 12 a few weeks earlier. I remember because I wasn’t yet allowed to sit with my big sister in the unofficial “youth section” during big church. It wasn’t a set rule; it was just something you didn’t do. Instead, I sat with Mrs. McNealy, the lady my mom asked to watch me since she was in the choir. Sitting with Mrs. McNealy was a happy consolation prize, as she’d scratch my back and give me candy during service. But this New Year’s Sunday stands out, as it was the day my words got me into His.

On this day, at the start of the message, the pastor descended the six pale blue carpeted stairs, asking people to share their New Year’s resolutions. Now, you have to understand about a thousand people were in that congregation. But did I care? Apparently not. My hand shot up before I had a second to realize just how many eyes were in the room.

Truth be told, I had no clue what a resolution was, much less did I have one. I mean, come on, I was 12. But you know what I wanted? To talk into that microphone. After a few people went, I concluded a resolution was a lofty goal you told people to impress them. So, I kept waving my hand like I was auditioning for a talk show. And then it happened; the pastor started heading my way.

What began as a dream of being a kid rockstar on that mic turned into instant panic. I was supposed to say something smart, right? And I’m at church, so it needs to be Jesus-y, yea? As he approached, I sensed my sister, over in the cool youth group island, shrinking back with embarrassment, while my mom, sitting in the choir loft, had this “what on earth is my child doing” look on her face.

As the pastor handed me the mic, the weight of it sunk into my tiny hands so quickly that I almost dropped it. Just then, Mrs. McNealy swooped in and held it up for me. Maybe it was that touch of confidence, my messed up need to impress, or perhaps the Holy Spirit (I think a combination of all three). But suddenly, I heard myself declare to all of Tabernacle Baptist Church that I would read through the whole Bible in a year.

Suddenly, the room filled with nods of approval and smiles of admiration at this little whipper-snappers’ most holy proclamation. Take that, cool youth kids! Crowd surfing the wave of self-aggrandizement, I caught the look on my sister’s and mom’s faces – absolute confusion and disbelief. They were both keenly aware of the reality I had detached from; I HATED reading with a passion. And here I was, literally in front of God and everyone, declaring I would read the Bible in a year!?!

It didn’t take long for the high of being a super-pious good little Christian girl to come crashing down. It’s one thing to boast about wanting to do “godly” things. It’s another thing for God to show up and hold you accountable. Later that evening, before bed, I had an encounter with the Lord. God showed up with something to say. It wasn’t a literal voice or vision. But with a firm conviction, I knew I wouldn’t get away with using God’s Word as a cheap snack to feed my ego. At that moment, I knew I had to keep my word and begin to read His.

I searched the house and stumbled across a Bible with a “Read the Bible in a Year” plan in the front. Turning to page one, I began to read, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…” and then I kept reading. Did I understand half of it? Heck no. I was 12. But motivated by the fear of the Lord and personal conviction, I was determined to keep my word concerning His. And you know what, after I read and read some more. And after I asked my mom a few awkward questions, like, “What is circumcision?” a few things started to make sense.

I’ll be honest. I didn’t finish reading the entire thing in a year; it took me a little longer. But by sticking with it, I did finish the following year. And when I did, I flipped back and started again, “In the beginning, God created…” And this time, you know what? I understood more than I did the first time. Some questions from before now had answers. But I also found I had new ones. And things that were once strange didn’t seem as confusing this time, except for circumcision. That’s always been weird.

But I stayed with it, and in doing so, I fell in love. With the story, the characters, but most of all, with the Author. God was showing up in those pages, and Jesus revealed Himself in ways I’d never imagined. And since then, every time I reach the last verse in Revelation, “Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen,” I flip back to page one and start again, “In the beginning…”

On that winter Sunday in ’97, did I have any clue I’d one day be called pastor? Could I have foreseen thousands of pages of reading laid ahead in receiving a master’s from seminary with a concentration in Biblical Studies? Could I’ve imagined my greatest joy would be nights spent reading the Bible with other believers, teaching His Word at conferences, or discussing the Scriptures with teenagers and adults? Heck no. But God did. And it has been the best New Year’s resolution I have ever accidentally made.