At my Toastmasters meeting last week, I listened to a riveting speech delivered by one of our very dynamic and INTENSE members. He is a Christian advocate for a topic that is deemed very controversial, but he is very passionate about. At Toastmasters, we do not critique content - that is not our "jobs"... we are not necessarily his audience, we are there to simply give advice, support and feedback to support the structure and delivery of his speech.
As he was speaking, he held up a Bible, dog-earred and tattered, as proof that he had done his homework on Christian doctrine, and no one, NO ONE can challenge him on what is in the Bible (in regard to his controversial topic) because he had read each word written, he had scoured each verse, and researched each documented verse. As he held the Book above his head and gave it a firm shake, a page came loose. This Bible was so throughly consumed it was starting to fall apart. I was impressed.
I thought about the Bibles on my bookshelf. One was given to me in Sunday School by a sweet, kind, matronly woman named Rose. It is a hard-covered King James Version Bible, and inside the cover is her handwriting "Priscilla, May the Lord Bless You and Keep You".... I treasure this Book... I really do... but as far as putting the Word to good use, I believe the most I used it for as a child was to press a four-leaved clover. That was, until I started looking for answers in my life.
When I was right out of High School, one of my best friends committed suicide. I was so hurt, confused, and frightened. I needed answers. I needed to know if God was there, if he was going to be there for my friend, and I needed to know what I thought of God. I pulled the Bible off my bookshelf, dusted it off, and looked for answers.... and found none. I am not saying the answers weren't there, but with the King James Version of the Bible in my hands, I just couldn't get past all the The's, Thys, and Theys.... any answers that were there were lost in translation.
So I asked for a new Bible, and was gifted a Womans Daily Devotional Bible. It has a pretty pink cover, and is seemingly easier to read, but try as I may, I still wasn't able to extract what I needed from it. During my divorce, I turned to the pretty pink Bible for comfort and solace, and in my inexperienced hands, all I found were verses damning divorce, telling me that women should be meek and subservient to their husbands, and basically feeding my Gremlin. Again, I'm not saying that the doctrine wasn't there.... it just wasn't jumping off the pages at me.
Still, there seemed to be something reverent about someone reading a Bible until it was falling apart. It seemed Holy and disciplined. I was attracted to the idea, but not the practice. Why? What was I hoping to find hidden in the verses that I do not already know?
While I was driving to Belfast today I was listening to "A New Earth" by Ekhart Tolle. He writes
"The Truth is inseparable from who you are. Yes, you are the Truth. If you look for it elsewhere, you will be deceived every time. The very Being that you are is Truth. Jesus tried to convey that when he said "I am the way and the truth and the life." These words uttered by Jesus are one of the most powerful and direct pointers to the Truth, if understood correctly. If misinterpreted, however, they become a great obstacle. Jesus speaks of the innermost I Am, the essence identity of every man and woman, every life-form, in fact. He speaks of the life that you are. Some Christian mystics have called it the Christ within; Buddhists call it your Buddha nature; for Hindus, it is Atman, the in-dwelling God. When you are in touch with that dimension within yourself - and being in touch with it is your natural state, not some miraculous achievement - all your actions and relationships will reflect the oneness with all the life that you sense deep within. This is love."
Once I heard these words Eckhart Tolle dronefully recited on my audiobook, I realized that I AM THE DOG-EARRED AND TATTERED book! All the answers I need, God has given me, they are already inside me. I may feel weary, worn out, tired and beat up - because I am scouring the pages of myself - looking for answers, stretching my limits. I do not have a weathered and forlorn book to shake in front of an audience to prove that I am knowledgeable about my faith - I have MYSELF. I have my experiences. I have witnessed amazing wonders - moments in time that I would call miracles. I am full of stories, verses and songs, and just like the Good Book, I may need some translation to help people understand me... and that is ok.
So, for now, my Bibles... both of them, King James and the pretty pink womens devotional Bible remain on my bookshelf. I am grateful to have them, I know I will refer to them when searching for specific phrases or meanings, its comforting to know they are there.... but for now, I am going to dutifully study my pages until they are lovingly worn and tattered.