What’s In Your Bible: Making the Bible Personal
By Beth Demme
Actors hired by Capital One ask, “What’s In Your Wallet?” We’re rephrasing the question to ask, “What’s In Your Bible?” (Click here to read, What’s In Your Bible? Maybe Your Family History.)
Are there changes in your Bible? Have you modified it? Would you like to? Don’t faint. I’m not suggesting you delete (or add) any books. I’m suggesting that if you take the time to personalize your Bible, Bible study can be more manageable and meaningful.
Although the Scriptural canon is now long-established, you can layer your copy of the Bible with personal meaning.
When you purchase a used book from Amazon, sellers have to describe the amount of “use” the book has endured. A “Like New” book has “absolutely no signs of wear.” It’s in such pristine condition Amazon considers it “suitable for presenting as a gift.” At the other end of the spectrum is a “Used-Acceptable” book. A book in this condition usually costs less because it “is fairly worn” and can suffer from “aesthetic issues such as scratches, dents, and worn corners [or] identifying markings.”
Family Bibles buck the system on this one. The more writing they have in them, the better. The more dog-eared the pages are, the better. The more identifying markings they contain, the better.
The three Bibles we looked at last week were more valuable to their owners because of how they were written in. The identifying markings were a source of pride, not a ding on the value. The notes, marks, and handwritten sentiments increased—rather than diminished—the personal significance and sentimental value of those Bibles.
Many people would never dream of writing in their Bible. They’re kind of stuck on the Amazon condition spectrum. If that’s you, I want to encourage you to adjust your thinking. Although the Bible is special, your actual copy is not sacred.
Look at what my friend Caitlin is doing in her Bible. Actually, this Bible is for her newborn son. Caitlin is journaling in this Bible, with the intention of giving it to her sweet boy when he’s older. She’s dating the notes and taking time to record his “firsts” along with her observations of the world. On July 18, she celebrated his first squeal of baby delight, but she also made a note about the heartbreaking racial violence that marked the summer of 2016.
On another page, she recorded a prayer for him. Imagine decades from now when he turns to Acts 2 and sees his mother’s handwriting. He’ll be able to read her words: “I’m praying for your future.” How might that impact him? Caitlin’s prayer will echo, not just in Heaven, but here on earth each time her son reads her words.
Similarly, thirty or forty years from now, I bet Caitlin’s son will be encouraged in his own marriage when he sees his mother’s note in Matthew 19: “Truthfully, we [your father and I] would not have much of a marriage without Jesus.”
Although the Scriptural canon is now long-established, Caitlin has found a way to add a layer of personal meaning to the Bible she will give her son.
You may not have a Bible with someone else’s handwriting or highlighting in it, but don’t let that stop you from making your own copy of the Bible personal.
I told you last week that my wallet is streamlined, but guess what — my Bible is a mess!
My Bible is stuffed with study notes, prayer requests, light bulb moments, and more. Here’s what you would see if you opened the front cover my (current) favorite study Bible:
- A 2-layer post-it note about the Tribes of Israel and how Judah became Palestine;
- Wesley’s Covenant Prayer;
- A note scratched out on a hotel notepad that says:
There’s not a template for praising God. It seems churches struggle to be genuine. I want a church that is full of love, where people can feel accepted.
That’s only the opening of the front cover. The more pages you turn, the more notes you will see. You will also see underlining and highlighting.
Why? Because I believe my Bible is meant to be used like a tool, not revered like an untouchable relic.
That said, I don’t make notes in my Bible flippantly. When I write in my Bible, whether it’s on a separate piece of paper or right in the margin, I’ve either had a light-bulb moment or I’m trying to sort through an idea.
I write in my Bible purposefully.
Next week I’ll share more of my notes with you and we’ll look at biblical highlighting as a Bible study tool.
How about you? Do you write in your Bible? Why or why not? What do you think of the ways these families are adding their own personal history to their copy of the Bible? Tell me about it in the comments, in an e-mail, or on Facebook.
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