I was at church last night and was seated behind an older gentlemen who, for lack of a better term, is very “lively” during church sermons.
He’s that guy that comments (fairly loudly) along with the sermon and finishing bible verses from memory that are being read from the pulpit. At one point there was a boy’s choir singing a song in English (I was in a Romanian church) and he celebrated and praised God throughout the entire song. At the end of the song he said to himself, but still out loud, “Praise God for you little men the song that you sang so beautifully. I have no clue what you said but I’m sure it was glorious!”
He was entertaining to say the least.
We stood for the reading of the word of God. That’s when I noticed his Bible. It looked to be easily 30 years old, housed in a ratty fo-leather zip case. His bible was open to Ephesians 2. As I glanced over his shoulder, I noticed that the pages themselves were almost smokey in color. Hmm. Old paper. There were small water stains on the open pages of what could only have been at one point tears. There were hectic highlights of pen and pencils of every color, and scribbles dotted the edges of the page. Sometimes the scribbled notes looked like they were trying to squeeze into a specific verse as they were carefully written in the small blank section between the lines.
The pages looked like they had been bent every which way at one point. The dog-eared corners appeared to be clinging to the rest of the page for dear life. One third of the page containing Ephesians 2 was held together by clear packaging tape. Through the tape I could see that a whole section the size of a half-dollar had at one point actually detached from the paper and was only held together by the shiny packaging tape.
The page edges were charcoal in color. Not by design as I’m sure they were once white, but by being handled with the dirty hands of a laborer who flipped through them after a day of hard work for years on end. The poor ribbon (if you can call it that) reminded me of thick, used dental floss. I’m sure at one point it was red, but now it was a dull pink, with intensely frayed edges that appeared to have endured one or two bouts with a scissor.
Through all of that, this man held that bible gently in both hands and looked at it as if it was made of silk and rubies. He delicately turned the pages as to not pull off a dog-eared page corner, and when he closed his bible for the night he did so with the utmost care.
As I was sitting behind him watching him, I glanced down at the brand new Allan bible laying in my lap. The pages were so white they almost sparkled. The regal art gilt with the gold on top of the red begged for attention. My 3 perfectly cut Allan ribbons shimmered as the light hit the royal blue fabric. My fingers melted into the soft highland goatskin leather as the bible shifted in my lap causing it to move in my hand. And through all that, the only thing I could think of was, “I hope one day you look like that ratty, tattered, well used bible”.
There is nothing wrong with enjoying the beauty in the design of all of the wondrous bibles available to us. But I was reminded of a valuable lesson last night. What is truly sacred in the bible is not the cover, the pages, the art gilting, or the ribbons but the unchanging words of the Creator. I for one would rather the words live in my heart, than on the pages on which they were printed.
“….my heart stands in awe of your words. I rejoice at your Word like one who finds a great spoil.” – Psalm 119: 161-162
written by Delight in Truth friend, Paul Tanca