In the spirit of back to school and the hours upon hours that are now committed to homework or homeschooling in most of our homes, I would like to tell you a precious little story…
The dog ate my Bible. For real. Oh how I wished he had merely eaten my “homework,” but no, he literally destroyed, ingested, and devoured the most precious possession in my life. Let me tell you a little about this particular Bible. It was only about 10 years old but it was well-loved. Like a favorite teddy bear who is missing an eye and has a hole under its arm, it was held together by duct tape on its spine because separation anxiety prevented me from sending it off to have it rebound. It was a side-by-side parallel Bible containing the NIV, NKJV, NLT, and NASB versions in beautiful little columns that, over the years, handicapped me from reading the Word in any other form. Years back, I had forgone writing sermon notes in notebooks or journals and just wrote those points right there dated in the margins. Scriptures that I had prayed and believed for my husband and children were highlighted and underlined over and over with their names beside them. I had visions of them one day, after I was gone, finding my Bible and being touched by the way their mother had prayed for them. It almost opened automatically to favorite verses and books, like well-worn paths on the pages. It was my best friend. We knew each other so very well.
Then one summer day, a homicide took place. I was sitting at my desk, studying and preparing for a class I had been asked to teach at church, with my trusty Bible at my side. Actually, I posted this picture that day, right before the crime, laughing at myself for the obviously serious manner I was approaching my work…
Moments later I left the house, leaving everything just as it was, to go pick my best friend’s kids up for a sleepover. When I came home, my beautiful old friend had been reduced to scraps all over the living room floor. I knew something was wrong the second I walked in. I noticed my Bible was not opened to the lovely book of Ruth, sitting on my desk as it had been just a half an hour before. And then I saw the evidence, the shocking and messy crime-scene. I just laid in the middle of the ripped pages and slobbery leather and duct tape and cried. Seriously I did. My poor children just stared at their crazy mother and quietly put the stupid, destructive, Bible-eating dog out.
Now, about that dog…. We have discussed at length if he is, in fact, a holy canine because he has the Word of God literally in him, or if he is demon-possessed (like the pigs in Matthew 8) sent to steal, kill, and destroy. I’ll let you guess which way I fall on that one. We’re still not speaking. (Incidentally, if anyone is looking for a one year old, tri-colored, Aussie mix, I might know just the dog).
Although I needed the mourning period to last longer than it did, complete with sackcloth and ashes, I had a class to teach in mere days and needed to get a replacement Bible ASAP. So, the next day I headed out and bought the closest thing I could find to my dearly departed. There are still 4 comparative versions side by side, although they are in a different order, and unfortunately I had to exchange the NASB for The Message, but it was as good as I could get. That first morning, sitting out at sunrise on my little quiet-time courtyard, we just stared at each other, this new Bible and I. Now, I certainly believe the Word of God is unchanging and infallible no matter what form it comes in, but there was a strangeness about the clean pages and fresh leather that left me a bit lonely. My heart ached for all the notes and names and dates that had been lost. It felt like years had been erased as I looked at familiar words on unfamiliar pages. My well-worn paths were gone and I had to search a little harder for my favorite spots.
New or old, which do you prefer? Some people like a new scene, a new adventure, new hair, a new home, new friends, crisp new leather. Others, like me, choose things a bit more worn. I like the groove in the yard where my old dogs have walked a hundred times to their bowls. I like to think of the history of this piece of land my old house sits on. I like tradition. I have recently acquired and displayed any and everything I could from my Nannie’s house; mixing bowls, wedding china, an odd but exquisite set of blown and decorated eggs, a table, her nightgown. Every week I faithfully place a bunch of lilies in an antique, white, enamel pitcher that has all but rotted through.
I like things old, and familiar, and frayed a bit around the edges. Like my Bible. I mean, I wouldn’t turn my nose up at a new pair of boots or a cute new restaurant in this limited town, but I like my friends tried and true. I want them to know every detail of the backstory before I open my mouth. I want them to have walked the hard roads with me and forgiven me when I fell short and cheered me on when I went for it. I want them to know they can trust my heart, even when my attitude, mood, or emotions lie. I want to be able to trust theirs’. Faithful. Known. Versed. I like it.
But, sometimes our old pathways are lost to us. Sometimes we are called to mark new territory. It struck me so as I was reading the spotless, white pages of my brand new Bible. Yes, the loss of that history was hard, even devastating, but the chance to write a new history is a bit thrilling. God says:
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:19
We like the idea of a “new thing” when the old thing is hard. We like a new thing when we are weary in the old, when the old is not working, when the old hurts. We long for streams in the wilderness, certainly. But, how do we feel about the new when the old is comfortable and friendly? Can we let it go and learn new lessons for new seasons? Can we re-learn old ones for the new season? Can we find our way back to those familiar verses and see them with new eyes, fresh and un-highlighted on the page?
Certainly, I am not advocating turning your old husband in for a “new” one, or trading in your tribe. We humans have “A Long Growing Season” and are called to persevere in relationship, in ministry, in the harvest. But within all of that, nothing is stagnant. Relationships are fluid and organic. They move and shift and change and grow. That man I have been married to for almost 17 years is not the same man he was 10 years ago or, thankfully, at the beginning of our marriage. I cannot and would not want to hold him to the boy he was. There have been seasons when certain friends were in my life on a daily basis, and then the season changes and we have to shift. Sometimes we find our way back to the daily, and sometimes we don’t. Can I let it be a new thing, or will I lay in the middle of the old thing and cry?
We have to let ourselves be a new thing too. At some time in your life were you the pretty one, the smart one, the young one, the single one, the newly wed, the young mommy, the harried toddler mom, the new believer, etc.??? Of course you were. Or, were you the needy one, the depressed one, the hurting one, the one with the rough marriage, the one in financial straits? Even when roles are hard, they can become comfortable. We can get in the habit of identifying ourselves by them. When those seasons change, can you let them go and embrace a new thing?
To be completely honest, my Bible isn’t the only thing I am having trouble letting go of. I may be struggling to let go of some old roles. I may be dragging my feet into this new season. See, summer is over and I sent my baby off to kindergarten this year. I feel like the “little kid mom” I have been for over a decade, with her sleepless nights, bulky carseats, and birth battlescars is being left behind. So what is this new thing God is doing? Who is this new me that is emerging? What lessons is she supposed to learn? What does her tribe look like? Where should she serve? Can I follow those streams in the desert into a new season?
As this school year began, and I searched the new Bible for scripture promises I was believing for each of my kids to pray at our Back to School Prayer Gathering, I realized these would be the first dates penned on these pages… We are becoming friends, this new Bible and me. It has sticky notes to mark new places. It has been rained on a bit out in the courtyard.
The highlighter has been donned. A new Bible for a new year for a new me and a new them. I can find my way back to the old spots, but the path isn’t so well-worn. Maybe in my trek I will find new places just as lovely, new weapons just as powerful, new springs in the desert. A “new thing” may not be so bad.
A new dog may not be either.