It was during high school that Emily Darnell came to a spiritual turning point in her life. She had grown up in a Christian home, attended church all her life, and even prayed to accept Christ as her Savior when she was 11 years old. But while attending a Chrysalis retreat in high school, she realized that she was pretty much a “Sunday Christian.” She wanted more. She started “paying attention to all that the Lord wanted to teach” by spending more time reading her Bible and really listening to what it was saying. She meditated on it, and journaled about what she read.
She decided to attend a Christian college in order to study the Bible more, and so she enrolled at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. There she earned a Bachelor of Science in Biblical Studies and went even further, completing a Masters Degree in Philosophical Theology. Her goal was to someday teach in a college or university. Meanwhile, during her college days, she worked with Young Life Ministry. She taught Bible studies in her dorm, and discovered that she loved teaching.
She continued to work for Liberty University after she graduated and became a Resident Director, in charge of 12 Resident Assistants in the women’s dorms. She mentored them, counseled them, and continued choosing appropriate Bible studies for the girls in their dorms. She found the work fulfilling and rewarding. Above all, the preparation she had to do for her job continued to teach her personally. Emily says, “I was fascinated by all I had learned.”
Emily met Russell while she was working on her Masters, and they married shortly before she finished. By then, her vocational goals had changed—and what she wanted was to be a stay-at-home mom. Her children, William and Vivian, now 9 and 6, made that a reality. She enjoys homeschooling them; but she has not at all lessened her Bible study, nor has her desire to teach weakened.
At her church—which is also my church—Emily got involved in women’s ministry. My daughter, Kim, and I were told about the Ladies Bible Study the first time we visited, even though it was mid-summer and that particular group wouldn’t meet again till the fall. By the time it started, several people had mentioned what a good study it was, and what a good Bible teacher Emily was.
I’ve been in a lot of Bible studies through the years, and I have to say, from the first I truly loved the way Emily led this group. We were studying Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy has only become very meaningful to me in the last 20 years, and I had never studied it with a group. The very things that attracted me to that book—such as loving the Lord with heart, soul, mind, strength, and what that actually entails—were the things that Emily centered the study on.
Emily does her own curriculum, and she incorporates her own research from commentaries and books she has read. She draws the meaning of the words in scripture to show they are meant to help the reader understand and know God better. To live as one of His people. To see how His love for us is the motivation behind the words, and how our love for Him should be drawing us deeper and deeper into His Word. Her voice is quiet, yet her enthusiasm and personal love for the Lord is both evident and encouraging to those she teaches.
In her own words Emily says, “I love learning, and to teach what I have learned solidifies it even more. I love to study and share.” Back in 2018, Emily was trying to decide what to teach next in the Ladies Bible Study. For the first time since she had children, she planned a retreat in our beautiful Virginia mountains by herself to better explore the possibilities. She was thinking she wanted to study Ezekiel so she did a speed reading through it.
“It was fabulous,” Emily says looking back. “Being by myself. I was reading my old journals and from reading Ezekiel, I saw this thread that ran through everything—abiding in Christ. It was like a lightbulb went off….I kept seeing in Ezekiel that the people kept forgetting his word. Forgetting, forgetting, and I felt like that was the opposite of what we are called to. Abide. Abide. I stayed up that night like a college student, till four in the morning writing this outline. It just flowed. That summer every time the kids wanted to play in the pool or the sprinkler, I would just get my laptop out and keep typing. By the end of the summer, the manuscript was done.”
Emily said she had two main purposes as she wrote. “I’ve heard for quite awhile, for several years, just in conversation—well, ‘what is abiding anyway?’ It seems mysterious to a lot of people. What is this word? How is it used? What scriptures have used it? It can seem confusing. I wanted to answer that question in a very practical way. Then, also, I know just in my generation overall, there’s a lot of people who think that pastors need to be in the Word a lot. The rest of us, a verse or two and that’s okay. I wanted people to realize their souls need so much more. I wanted to awaken the idea that it’s a constant lifeline. That to be connected to the vine is not just hearing a sermon on Sunday. It’s to have those words constantly in your heart and mind. Whether you read it or listen to it. It doesn’t happen accidentally. It’s intentional. It’s realizing, I’ve got to lean on it. I wanted to awaken conversations among people that this was both doable and approachable. ‘I can do this.’ That it would become a commonplace thing as Christians.”
Once Emily found a publisher, Christian Focus Publications in Scotland, the production of the book seemed like a quick process to her. And then it was released right in the middle of the pandemic. That really isn’t a bad thing though. There’s been a lot more reading going on during this pandemic, a lot more time spent in the Word.
Deep Simplicity is not a book to read quickly. In fact, I haven’t finished it yet. Emily has done a great job at organizing her material. Every chapter is broken down into smaller sections, and I am enjoying reading one or sometimes two of these each day. There is so much to be thought about, chewed on, and personally applied in each of those sections. I’m looking up the many scripture references found in each section as well, and doing more meditating on them.
You will come away with such a better and deeper understanding of what it means to seek, cling, dwell, hope, renew, and abide. You will also realize that these things must be ongoing, another thing that Emily said many times during our interview. You must daily make them intentional. Jesus is not to be taken for granted. If you are hungering to get deeper into God’s Word, if you have questions about how to go about that—then this is a book you should read.
Emily says she prays her readers “would be drawn to the Word and not just think of the book as a devotional book. While devotional books have their place—and I certainly read them all the time—we need a comfortable turning to the Word. We need to be less afraid of not understanding what we read in Scripture, but to really get comfy being in the Word, walking through it. I think the more you do that, the more you will find favorite sections that put you through different seasons of life. That’s part of how the Spirit works. You will highlight some things, and then you’re going through a trial and it’s there because you’ve planted a seed. It becomes precious. My prayer is that more and more people would just be drawn to soaking in the Word. Finding all the many ways to do that. Interacting with it.”
Emily also blogs at www.abidedeep.com. Besides sharing her thoughts, her blogs often include her notes from the weekly Bible studies she leads.
Jonathan Lamb, author, Bible teacher, and minister-at-large with Keswick Ministries, writes of Deep Simplicity, “Here is a remarkable book of meditations on one of the most vital but most neglected aspects of Christian living. Every page is rich in biblical wisdom to be savored phrase by phrase. If you read slowly and reflect prayerfully, this sharply focused book will deepen your devotion to Christ, nurture your inner life, and align your thoughts with eternity.” I totally agree with his assessment.
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