I have had the idea for a while now to tell my story (so far) using books and Bibles as representative of the places on the map. Or maybe I could say that the books and Bibles are the various roads, paths, rest stops, and gas stations along my life’s roadtrips.
Either way, I am a bibliophile and a Bible nerd through and through. I love reading and I love Bibles (I am a minister after all aren’t I?). So, of course my story would be capable of being told through the lenses of the various books and Bibles I have owned, used, loved, and kept.
The first book on this journey is what I think is the first Bible I ever owned (and which my son now owns). It must be the first Bible I ever owned because the inside cover says it was given to me by my Aunt the year I was born. It was a thick board book Bible with vivid light blue colors. Does some of my love of the color blue stem back to those pleasant memories of this Bible? Perhaps! I had never thought about it until now.
I don’t remember much about it really, but I know it had a tremendous impact on me. It certainly looks like I carried it around a lot. I hope the old saying of Charles Spurgeon is true:
“ a Bible that is falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.” Also – as my wife pointed out to me – the first story in the book certainly sounds like it could have been an early inspiration for my own book, The Artist’s Instruments.
This children’s Bible is really not a “Bible.” It is a Bible Storybook. It has stories taken from the Bible and summarized and told in a playful and child-friendly manner.
Fast forwarding quite a bit further into the future is the Bible that I was given by my childhood congregation as a recognition and celebration of my baptism. It is a maroon bonded leather NASB, updated edition, large print, red letter, visual reference Bible. It is really rather beautiful. I still feel something profound when I hold it.
On the inside cover on the dedication page it has my name, the date of my baptism and the signatures of all the elders of that church at the time. When I look at this volume – and I do often – I am reminded of my burgeoning faith; that early moment when I had only started on the faith adventure of following Jesus. I was only a babe in Christ at the time. I knew so little. I was so little. I look back now and wonder at all the progress that has been made in my faith journey so far. I have come a long way from those early days in that church. I do not identify with those rigid lines of sectarian faith any more. I have lost respect for many of those men that were my elders (and my heart breaks that only men were recognized as elders!). And yet, nobody can begin from nowhere.
We all have to begin somewhere and then it is from that point that we can grow. No one is perfect and though I have some issues and wounds from this fundamentalist sectarian environment that I am still processing, at the end of the day, I am undeniably thankful for that group of imperfect Jesus followers who taught me to love Jesus. They taught me to love studying scripture and apply my heart and mind to it (though they often disagreed with the conclusions I reached once I started doing just that!). I used to think that I either had to completely embrace or completely reject my upbringing as if it were some sort of inseparable package deal. I no longer think that. I have come to realize that acknowledging the difficult and dark parts of my heritage does not diminish or counter the light parts. It is much like the parable of the wheat and the weeds. You must wait till later to be able to pick the one from the other.
I find a deep symbolism then in the fact that the Bible I find myself using most recently (more on this Bible in a later post) is a bright red color rather than a deep dark maroon. Also, since I am focusing on color, it is worth noting the Bible I took to seminary (more on this one later too) was at one point bound in a tan-cream color and now is leather bound in jet black. Maybe my faith – like my Bibles – has changed color over time. Maybe my faith has blossomed into a brighter fuller fruit-bearing faith rather than the dormant and lifeless one that I was handed as the only option back once upon a time or the spiritless one that I had in seminary. Maybe my faith has passed through a dark night of the soul and has come out the other side more bright and vibrant. Also notice in the picture of my baptismal Bible and my current one (see below) there is a cross on the cover. I find that deeply symbolic too. I hope my faith has become more and more cruciform.
I also find a deep symbolism in the fact that my baptismal Bible has no real writing in it. There are no underlined or highlighted verses. There are no scribbled insights in the margins. It is tremendously devoid of all that. The Bible I took to seminary (again, I’ll talk more about this particular Bible later) is overflowing with notes to the point of running out of room and struggling to understand some of what is written. The Bible I use now is probably a healthy medium. There are notes and scribbling, but not too much nor too little. I started in a place that had no real value for questions or rigorous and critical study, went through a place where I almost drowned in the questions and rigorous and critical study, and now am in a place that I think is a healthy balance of it all.
More to come on this journey of books and Bibles soon.