Do you have a Bible of your own? Do you remember your first Bible? The first Bible I remember being able to call my own was a big, navy blue “Young Reader Bible” that the church I grew up in gave to third graders every year. To be honest, I don’t have many memories of reading that Bible, but it was a meaningful gift given to me by my church family. It was my church’s way of saying to us children, “This book is part of who we are. We want you to have one for yourself. We want you to learn to love this book.” The first Bible I remember actually picking up and reading was a brown, faux-leather NIV Bible that my parents gave me in high school. My father suggested I start by reading the Gospel of Matthew, which I did. It went with me to Bible studies on Wednesday nights with other youth. And it went with me to college, where it got opened for a few Bible studies but then stayed closed for a while.
I still have both of these Bibles. They are in my office at the church. Believe it or not, I’m looking at the big blue one right now as I type this article. It sits, along with an old hymnal and a paperback Bible, underneath my desktop computer screen. It’s a daily reminder of the hope my church had for me that I would grow to love this book. The NIV Bible is on a table in my office, and sometimes when I see it, I remember how God was with me in my adolescence and early adulthood, even when I was not paying attention. On a shelf above my office computer is the red New Oxford Annotated NRSV Bible that my seminary professors recommended I have for classes. There are lots of underlined phrases and notes written in the margins, because it was in seminary that I finally got the courage to mark my own thoughts and questions onto the page. This Bible’s edges are frayed from all the reading and studying and wrestling I did in seminary. I look at it and remember how the scriptures came alive for me in those years of study.
Today, there are three or four different Bibles that I use regularly. One sits in my desk drawer at work. I take it to Bible studies here at the church. One rests on a washstand beside the bed. Another sits on a table by my chair in the living room. I use them all in different ways and at different times, and I like having a variety of Bibles around, with different commentaries, maps, study guides and translations. Each one has something special to offer. Funny. I could probably tell my faith story by lining up all of my old Bibles: the one from childhood that I didn’t actually read. The one from adolescence that I dipped into and explored a bit before setting it aside. The one I engaged with both academically and emotionally. The ones that I turn to today for study, for preaching and for prayer. My relationship with this holy book has changed and grown and broadened over the years and over the pages. Sometimes the relationship is simple; other times it’s very complicated. And always there is more to explore and learn.
What about you? Do you have a Bible to call your own? Do you remember your first Bible? How has your relationship with this book grown and changed over time? As we enter this year-through-the-Bible together, may our love for this book continue to grow as we seek to hear God’s story speaking onto our own story, no matter our stage of life.