supple

My first big girl Bible was a pale pink Precious Moments NIV softcover. I drew ballerinas on the inside cover and doodled my name and a few verses in colorful marker. I faithfully studied my memory verses for Sunday school. I could sing all sixty-six books to a catchy tune by age three, I’m told.

It’s packed away in a cardboard box, with a tiny blue willow china tea set and other mementos of a simple, sweet time.

In the awkward years between child and teenager, my parents gave me a thick, dark brown leather Spirit Filled Life Bible. That was my Bible all through high school. I carried it to school, camp, conventions, and church. I wrote enthusiastic, sincere notes in the margins, followed by exclamation points. I highlighted favorite passages, and then underlined them when I came across them again.

By the time my senior year of high school was coming to a close, the spine of this Bible was broken and chunks of pages would fall out easily. The highest grade I ever received for a college course was a 98, for The Bible as Literature. I attribute that to my time of intense study as a teenager.

It too is in a cardboard box, along with letters folded into interesting shapes (relics from pre-texting days), pictures from mission trips and youth conferences, and passionate journal entries. Those were the days of eagerness and sincerity, days of blissful unknowing.

Next came a navy blue slimline New King James Version, given to me upon my high school graduation by my pastors on May 20, 2001, with the inscription may the Lord bless you and keep you scrawled in the front.

Unlike its predecessor, its cover remains intact, and the notes are a bit quiet, followed by more question marks than exclamation points. This is the Bible with which I’ve struggled.

Its supple leather cover remains intact; I’ve been the one in pieces.

I’ve read this Bible and wished I could go back– to when the words were nothing but beautiful, to when I didn’t see the harshness of humanity in them;  to when I could get lost for hours, drunk on a kind of love. Instead, I’ve been soberly examining, and when I find writers who’ve been able to find precious things between the lines, I inhale their words like I used to inhale the other ones.

It’s taken many years to understand this: the Word of God is first and foremost a Person. When I read ancient words keeping Him in mind, they take on a new color, a new meaning. I believe I’ve known this Person for most of my life; that many things have clouded my view, that many things still do.

I can mark the seasons of my life by these books. I keep them like the treasures they are, but I think I’d like to get another one soon.

For the new season.

A different draft of this piece was originally posted on Noting Now.

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