My Bible reading experience, from childhood to the present

If asked to name a book I have read that I will never forget in my lifetime, I will probably request for allowances and ask that I can name not one but a few. This is because I read more while working through my businessmore than I possibly could if I am working in an 8-hour office job and commuting through a two-hour traffic 20 times a month. After I left a stable job in 2014 to venture into a path with only God as my heart’s companion, I read 30 books within a year. It is nothing to brag about, of course, because, in my perspective, it showed how deprived, how starved for reading I was during the years I was intensely focused and almost horse-blindered on my corporate work.

To answer the question on the unforgettable books I have read, I am at a crossroads, just like when I am asked where my favorite places to go are or what my favorite desserts are. I can mention many books. In fact, I can say the books I have finished reading are my favorite books. After all, why and how did I manage to complete them? There must be something in it that got me hooked to the first word to the last. That something may be the moral lessons the story contained or the entertainment value it offered or the graceful composition of words that warm the heart and boost the mind.

However, there is one book that never ceases to amaze me. Over the years, I have built a connection with this book, a connection too mysterious, too deep, even too complex for words. When I was a child, I carried it around because I was told to. When I was a teenager, I took mail lessons about it because I wanted to understand it. When I was an ignorant young adult, I criticized it for the violence it contains. And when I have become an adult with a free will, I open it for guidance and inspiration without a nun or a teacher dictating behind my back.

I had a love-hate relationship with the Bible in the past. I studied in Catholic schools from kindergarten to college so the Bible is a required facet of my life. Looking back, I realized that while I was particular about following the rules imposed by the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I had an unconscious aversion to being controlled. I read the Bible because it was required in our Christian Living classes and Theology courses.

My CL teacher, Madam Barton who is now the principal of the Carmen branch of St. Joseph’s Academy, assigned us to write reflections on Bible passages week after week. I would draw and color mountains copied from clothing brochures I got from my aunt in the U.S. as backdrop of my reflection on how I would dress up well for Church every Sunday like one would for a date. I was in my early teens and I had no idea how to date. I was aware that I wrote it down for the sake of writing it down. Still, I got a positive nod from Madam Barton, which satisfied my learner’s heart. But I knew I didn’t like writing another reflection of the same nature again.

Another memorable Bible-related experience was when my high school organized a field trip to a children’s orphanage. We were told to bring gifts. Toys? I didn’t have many growing up. My father is not a fan of commercially made toys and a big fan of resourcefulness, so I made do with my mother’s umbrella, a towel, an old monkey doll, and a beat-up toy telephone. Books? I didn’t have many children’s books growing up. As young as 12 years old, I was already reading thick novels like Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables and Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Candies? I was too innocent to ask for any and more from my parents’ store. So what to give to orphans who share the same age as mine or to those younger than me? I made books with stories from the Bible. I spent a day or two on them until my hands went numb. During the outreach, I hid them, too shy to show them. When I saw how quiet they were while eating, I took out my childish creations and read to them and gave them the three 8-page books I made. My hands were still numb at the time, but when I saw how absorbed they were with the stories and the art…ah, it was a bitterly satisfying experience.

When I was a teenager, I saw in a religious magazine in the school library about the World Bible School and how I can have a tutor of my age discuss the power of the Bible. I enrolled in it with enthusiasm and spent a portion of my allowance for correspondence, exchanging letters with my Bible tutor, an American and two years older than me. I enjoyed reading the Bible with her and answering the quizzes in air-mail-envelope-sized booklets she sent and the little greetings on the side. I think we did this together for two years, but after I got to my senior year in high school when I was clueless what program to enroll in yet busy applying and preparing for college entrance exams, I stopped my Bible studies without even an ounce of regret. Years later, I would realize how I naturally outgrow things but this does not mean I would forget what I learned. I still read the Bible to this day.

In college, I took perhaps around 18 units of Theology courses that heavily rely on the Bible for reference because it was part of the curriculum of an ICM-run school. My classmates and I were young and ignorant and we complained a lot about it. Later, I realized how helpful Theology has been in my spiritual journey. These days, I learned the units have been reduced by half and I cannot deny how sad I am for the current students because I believe we are in a time when we need the Bible’s wisdom the most.

After I graduated college, I challenged myself to read the entire Bible. I only read the whole Old Testament. In my shameful arrogance, I went around telling people I did so whenever a chance cropped up, without keeping in mind that I had already forgotten half of what I had read. For atonement, I am reading the Bible again, starting this year in a God-blessed pace, slowly taking in wisdom and letting out exultation.

I started in February 2020 and I smiled when I saw through my Bible Reading Checklist app that I have read 2.10 percent of the Bible. If I were younger, I would have rushed to read 50 percent of the thick literature by June. No, after surviving a near-death accident, getting married to a good man, and losing a baby in a miscarriage, I think God is telling me to slow down and take a deep breath. I am doing just that, even in my Bible-reading pace. The Bible is a unique book, more so to a Catholic like me. From the 2.10 percent I have read so far, I already found important passages I missed in school, I discovered verses that would have helped me in my confined sadness years ago, and I met characters that are oddly relevant. I will continue to read the Bible. I don’t know when I’ll finish it. But for me, the present discovery is more important than the future. Here’s one thought-treasure I unearthed from the Bible, my parting gift in this blog post:

“When I look at the sky, which you have made, at the moon and the stars, which you set in their placeswhat are human beings, that you think of them; mere mortals, that you care for them?” (Psalms 8:3-4)

Photo: The small Bible is what my husband and I used during our wedding ceremony. The bigger one is meant for my poor vision.

(Photo and text by Nancy Cudis-Ucag. All Rights Reserved.)


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