A highlighted bible
I was going through a heap of books when I found it. It was shelved next to the other Bibles. Most American homes have more TVs than people, and I think American Christian homes have more Bibles than nearly anything else. Why someone needs 14 Bibles is beyond me. Then again, I've been there.
This Bible was the Bible I used for over three years in college. It's pocket-sized, meaning I could stash it in my back pocket and look holy when walking to class or ordering a smoothie. It handily fit in a backpack or a glove box in case someone on the quad or the highway was curious about what the second chapter of Job said.
I took it to retreats and Bible studies, accountability group meetings and dates (fact). It's always interesting to find relics of the past, but spiritual artifacts are a bit different. You expect to outgrow your baby shoes. You never thought you'd come to a place where you no longer wanted a tattered Bible with highlights, underlines, and dog-eared pages.
This was the Bible I read every night for almost four years straight. Before turning in - no matter where I was or how tired I was - I read a chapter each from the Old Testament, the New Testament, and Psalms. If I found something uplifting or noteworthy, I underlined it with whatever color was closest at hand. Thumbing through this version is like opening a pack of Skittles - bright colors jump out at you, calling your attention to clever passages in Ephesians, Malachi, or yes, even Revelation.
This Bible was the precise reason I was able to read the entire thing more than seven times while in college. It is why I still know passages of scripture from memory. And as much as it was a part of my past, I know it's not a part of my future.
I showed it to my wife last night and asked her to name a book of the Bible and I would read her whatever I had underlined, certain I'd marked at least one verse in each book. She picked Philemon, the shortest book in the Bible. Turns out I'd found two nuggets of wisdom there. She then asked about Leviticus, the boring legal book from the Old Testament. Turns out I found two pearls there, too. After reading them, I laughed and wondered why I ever found those verses worth underlining.
"I'm sure they meant something important to you at the time," she replied.
And there it was - confirmation that my spirituality had grown and moved on.
We expect lots of things in life to change. We change jobs, find new friends, develop new interests, and move into different houses. But, there's always something sacred about the faith of our childhood, our teenage years, and our college days that we never think will change. In fact, for many people it doesn't. They continue to journey not just down a similar path for their entire lives, but around the same track, covering the same ground they've always covered, never venturing off course. And for them, it works. I respect their ability to remain tethered to that which is familiar.
Staying on a certain path wasn't the path for me. I began to question long-held theological assumptions my senior year of college. That's when I put this Bible down and began to explore where God was leading me. That's when I began to ask questions and found that the faith and the pocket-sized Bible that represented it no longer fit well. I realized I was on a path that was intellectually dishonest and personally harmful.
I thumb through these thin pages with a bit of nostalgia and lots of comfort. I no longer need this Bible and I'll be taking it to the used book store later this week. Things change, even our faith.
And that's okay.
We need to let people know that clinging to something that no longer works or no longer seems useful can be harmful. Embracing who you're becoming and finding a space for who you've always been is possible. Above all, we must celebrate change and transformation into something new and better. This, after all, is the central message of the Gospels and worth highlighting again and again.