It was early. 5:30 a.m. A former farm kid, I’d never gotten the penchant for early risings out of my system.
I was exhausted and, yes, feeling sorry for myself. I’d spent the previous six days disbanding a life: mine – pouring through twenty-five years of excessive accumulation with the goal of emptying my now-sold house. Purging, tossing, boxing, donating (thank you, Gateway Ministries in Williamsport for helping me help SO many others), taping, packing, lifting and finally moving still too many things to my new home four states away.
Between sips and yawns in that too-well-lit McDonald’s, I glanced up to look at the few patrons that shared the pre-dawn need to mainline some caffeine.
I did a double take on a man to my left, four tables down.
He sat alone, fast food wrappers strewn about his tabletop. I can’t recall what he looked like and wouldn’t have given him a second thought if it hadn’t been for one thing – his intensity.
He sat, perched on the edge of his seat, studying something feverishly, so engrossed that he wasn’t even eating his food. It was clear, from his posture, his fervent focus and his wide eyes, that he was reading and devouring something, and finding it fascinating. Although the food wrappers hid his material from my view, I could see he used his index finger as a guide beneath the sentences as he read.
He didn’t want to miss a word.
As a writer, I had to know what it was. A newspaper article? Surely not a legal document? Perhaps a love letter? But oh, how I wished it was a novel. And if a novel, I had to know which one. The novelist in me wanted to know what could capture and secure such zeal and passion from a reader. If it was a book, would I have the nerve to approach him and ask its title?
When I was certain I could snatch a subtle glance, I lifted out of my chair to get a better look at his object of pleasure.
Sure enough, it was a book, and I dropped back in my seat, more than a little taken aback.
No need to sleuth more. The book was one I recognized instantly with its leather binding, tell-tell attached ribbon bookmarker, and onion skin pages.
A tidal wave of feelings washed over me–jealousy, shame, wonder, and surprise that I was surprised which then added more shame.
I couldn’t remember ever having read my Bible with that posture, that fervency. Sure, I read with hunger, a yearning to know more, to understand, to master this walk with Christ. But, I don’t ever remember reading with such blatant intensity. Besides, I already knew the outcomes of all the stories— David, Moses, Elijah, John, Paul, Queen Esther, Mary, even Bezaleel, and, because I love the way their names roll off my tongue: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And on and on.
Fast forward a week, with packing and moving mostly behind me, and I get a call from my lovely friend Cheryl. She congratulated me on the release of my novel, Crossing into the Mystic. She ooooh’d and aaaah’d about it, said she “loved” (with emphasis) the ending, and can’t wait for the sequel. And, no, she assured, she wasn’t just saying that because she’s my friend. She’s sweet like that.
Then, she added, “And what made it even better is that I know the author. So with each word I wondered why you chose it, and what you intended with the story, and what motivated you to choose what you did.”
Wham. It hit me. She had read my book with intensity.
My mind flicked back to that man I saw in McDonald’s.
Suddenly I thought of my Bible differently. To echo my friend, I “know” its Divine author. God is in each word, and as I skim my fingers along the passages I’m touching His message. He’s talking to ME in those words.
I too can read with intensity. I can “see” God in each of the stories because I know Him. With each word I can wonder why did God have Paul or David or Solomon choose it? What had He intended with the story? What precipitated the choices? Why this particular story or analogy or parable? What does God want me to take away from each entry?
Perhaps I’ll find the answers if I practice a little edge-of-my-seat intensity.