Why Personal Bible Study is not like Flossing Teeth

Is Bible study like flossing your teeth?


The church I grew up in encouraged keeping notebooks full of prayer lists and notes on scripture passages. This was called “having a daily quiet time” or “doing your devotions”.  Who could disagree that good Christians must do devotions?

I do.

Or maybe I just got the wrong idea.


In my mind, Bible study and flossing were both things responsible people did to avoid bad consequences. Nobody eagerly anticipated flossing, or devotions.

More often than not I ended up not doing either. Maybe I’m immature and irresponsible, but I tend to do things I like to do more regularly than I do things that bore me.

Private Tryst

At some point God helped me shift my thinking. Now, I often sneak away for a private tryst with him. We take a walk together or talk as the day unfolds.  He is the Holy God and I don’t want to forget that when I use this intimate language, but he used it first. He came to us, drew near to us, and even died for us. He loves us. And what does he ask in return? Only one thing, that we love him back with our whole selves. When we do that we will love each other too. 

What to do in private with God

Often during a time with God I talk, or cry, or whine, and he listens. Other times he talks and I listen. I have to work on this. I am better at talking than listening, but I’m learning.

Sometimes we wrestle. I start it. He pins me down or sets me straight because he loves me. I apologize. He forgives. Like the end of any fair fight, there is sweetness to it.

He whispers softly to my heart or makes me laugh with his sense of humor.  He talks to me through the pages of a long love letter he wrote, called the Bible.

He shows me his newest piece of art, a crimson sunrise or a dance of wind and grass. More often than before, I sit with Bible and notebooks and study guides, but not because I want to check God off my good-Christian to do list. I do it because God loves me and I love him back.

I still have to figure out a way to force myself to floss though…


“ And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 2:18-19 The Message)


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4 Responses to Why Personal Bible Study is not like Flossing Teeth

  1. Merrie Lea April 24, 2014 at 8:40 am #

    I can’t put in words how much I needed your wonderful thoughts. Thank you!

    • Beth Ratzlaff April 28, 2014 at 10:33 am #

      I’m so glad!

  2. Lanae Klap February 24, 2014 at 9:53 am #

    Wow. Such a great picture. Thanks Beth!

  3. Beth Moller February 19, 2014 at 12:31 pm #

    Oh my gosh…I love that. So good!

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