books and Bibles

I’ve always loved books. I can never remember a moment in my life when there were no books or when I didn’t like them. Books allowed me to escape into a world that I often felt was better than the one I lived in. Growing up, I was surrounded by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott, and Jane Austen. I would go on adventures with the knights of the round table or Robin Hood or Hercules. Nothing was forbidden, anything was imaginable. The older I became, the more dear my books have become. I developed favorite authors, favorite characters, favorite quotes. Eventually, I realized that all I required in a book was a happy ending. And it would always bother me when people would look at the books I love and say that real life quite simply isn’t like a book. Nothing ever ends in a perfectly tied up ending full of laughs and smiles and true love, they would say. I feel sorry for those people. I can look around at the people around me, at my friends and family, and even though their lives may be difficult, that doesn’t mean they can’t have the happy ending. Like an author in control of her plot and characters, we control our choices. I choose to have that happy ending.

Books are the most simple of things. They are pages with words that tell a story. And everyone loves a good story. My personal favorites are the books in a series. Stories that keep on going, letting me watch the characters I fall in love with continue on in their lives. That’s what I imagine life should be like- a series of never ending stories with more than one happy ending. At least, that’s how I believe we should look at life. Not as having one final happy ever after, but a bunch of them, sprinkled around, giving us hope to continue on through the sad parts, knowing there is going to be that moment of bliss around the corner.

And yet, I want or maybe need a book that makes me think. One that flips my world upside down, without regret or apology, and leaves me stunned and maybe a little bit terrified. I like books that leave me in awe, ones that make the world seem more wonderful and leave me feeling more alive after the final page. Sometimes I crave these sorts of books. They feed my mind and nourish my soul. I feel less empty after closing the cover and returning it to my shelf. The compulsion to write sweeps in, urging me to try and create something to affect someone like this book affected me. I need a book that inspires, that encourages, that uplifts. My most beloved books speak to Jane Austen’s sentiment that other pens can dwell on guilt and misery. I love a book that transcends the despondency humanity can become entrapped by, and I love a book that takes me with it. I want to be taken and swept away.

The Bible is every Christian’s escape. It is the story that gives us hope. We should look at the Bible like a book. Or at least a book of books. They contain stories, characters, a plot, metaphor, symbolism, conflict, and a host of other literary devices. It is uplifting and tragic, boring and exciting, with a beginning and an end. All of the pieces of the Bible, all of the characters, plots, and themes weave together to create a larger story, a story that gives everything meaning. The Bible is the story of the world and everything in it. It is my story and your story, a story for believers and non believers alike. Everyone can relate to a book.

We are told that the Bible is the Word of God. There is a really confusing exposition about this at the beginning of the Gospel John (and I maintain this is the most confusing section in the entire Bible). In the beginning was the Word. God was the Word. The Word was God. They were together in beginning. The Word was light and life and became flesh to walk on earth. Apparently, the Word was repetitive and everything but simple. I remember memorizing those verses. I was too young to understand what any of them meant, and none of the adults could really explain it. It was beyond me.

When we look at the Bible as the Word of God, we look at it with a sense of respect and awe. We place high importance on a bound and covered sheaf of papers. It is God’s Word, a part of Him. It is perfect. We place it on a pedestal and ogle it from afar. We’re afraid to get too close, not wanting to ruin the perfect book the was given to us imperfect humans from God Himself.

Sometimes I feel Christians worship the Bible like an idol. We don’t worship the Bible as if it’s a part of God. It’s a separate entity, beyond our touch, beyond understanding. We observe from afar, not interacting with it, not consuming it, not loving it. We don’t have a relationship with the Bible. We treat it like a textbook- something to impart information, to give us a formula. We might mark them up, use them ill, cover them with notes, but we never connect. We never allow it to live within us, to become a part of us, an extension of God living inside each of us. We keep our distance when we should hold close.

I used to have nightmares when I was little, maybe about six or seven. I would wake up in the middle of the night, terrified of something I could never remember. I would look around my room, filled with shadows and corners, worried there was something lurking, waiting for me. I always made sure my mom shut my closet before bed, because I knew if it was open, something would find me after I fell asleep. One night, I woke up crying, but was too afraid to get out of bed to go to my parents room. The only thing within my grasp was the children’s Bible my dad had read from before bed. I held that Bible like it was a stuffed animal, like a lifeline. I hugged it close, closed my eyes, and prayed for God to keep me safe. I fell asleep holding my Bible. It kept the demons at bay.

Certain Jewish sects wear tefillin. These are small leather boxes worn on a man’s fingers, arms, or forehead. Inside the boxes are parchments covered with verses from the Torah. The purpose of the tefillin is to remind the Jewish people that God brought His children out of Egypt. I remember seeing this while walking around Jerusalem a few years ago. Religious men carrying pieces of their Scripture around with them. A constant reminder of the wonder that is God.

The Word of God should be carried around with us. We should write it on scraps of paper, jot our favorites in notebooks, leave verses on post-it notes on the mirror to read every morning when brushing out teeth. It should not be confined to a hardback book, to intellectual conversation, to academic enlightenment, to Sunday morning services. The Word of God was gift, given to us to bring us closer to Him. We should never hold it away at arms length, nor should we elevate to something beyond us. We should be filled with it, overflowing with it.

The Bible is God’s book; His love story to us. Why shouldn’t we want it to be a part of us?

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