“There are times in our lives when we have to realize our past is precisely what it is, and we cannot change it. But we can change the story we tell ourselves about it, and by doing that, we can change the future.” –Eleanor Brown, The Weird Sisters
“Looks like someone is needing a new bible,” said a nicely dressed elderly man sitting down the row from me at church. I smile at him, and reply, “It looks that way doesn’t it?” It was at the end of the service when everyone is gathering their belongings, and kids are running around while the grown ups are chatting about lunch plans and the weeks happenings. I clutch my old bible to my chest while I visit with friends. It just seems to fit there. I guess I’ve held on to this bible for so many years, it has kind of formed its imprint where it lays perfectly comfortable right next to my heart.
On the way home from church, I look at my old worn bible. I have to admit, it looks pretty gnarly. Now that I think of it, it’s probably 20 years old. The leather has stains on it from the being wet in the weather. In fact, it’s all tattered, and I tend to roll the frayed corners between my fingers. Even the binding is broken from being opened and closed over the years. It has my old married name engraved in gold on the bottom right. You see, this bible was a gift to me from my ex-husband. I know the thought of loving a bible that was a gift from your ex-husband probably made about half of you gag. But, when I see my bible, I don’t see who gave it to me. I see what the Word of God did for me.
Before my divorce, I was very familiar with the bible. I even read it occasionally and did a study here and there. I was a good church-going girl that knew the Lord’s Prayer and memorized bible verses for Sunday school class. But, it wasn’t until after my divorce that I clung to that bible as if my life depended on it…well, my life did depend on it. The words written on those pages were like my oxygen. I would inhale their goodness, and exhale the darkness that I felt. Its thin pages are stained with my tears, and covered with personal thoughts that I would jot down in the margins. I kept it right next to my bed, so it would be the last thing I saw at night, and the first thing I would see in the morning. I still keep it there.
I know with it being the New Year all the talk is about throwing out the old and reaching out for the new. We make New Year resolutions, and we talk about leaving all the struggle behind. And, yeah, I totally get it. There is something that is pretty amazing about turning a corner, and placing distance between whatever was painful in the past and keeping your focus to what’s to come. I know I even talk about it. It’s a good thing! It’s healing. But, sometimes we can go a little overboard. We want so badly to erase a terrible moment that we will do anything we can to keep us from remembering. We throw away memories, refuse to talk about certain things, and even close up or hearts to others. But, if we toss out all the bits and pieces of our past, then we lose the parts that make us who we are today. It’s what we carry with us from the struggle; the perspective that is so sweet….even when the experience was disgustingly bitter.
I’m sure my ex-husband had no understanding just how important that gift would be to me. I mean, I had owned several bibles by that point. But, this particular one would come alive to me in ways I never dreamed because of my circumstances. I had no way of knowing what was coming my way. I couldn’t see it. But, my Jesus did. He wanted to make sure I had what I needed to get me through it. Just another example of how He loves us.
So, yes, my bible is old and worn. But, that’s the best kind of bible there is. It has been well used and genuinely loved. I may need to give it a facelift soon, but I’m not getting a new one. Pieces of me are written on its pages. It’s one of my most special gifts (ironically, given to me by someone who would cause me so much pain). It’s how the Lord loved me through my deepest valley, and all the other ones that were to follow. I’m forever grateful for it.
As you think about this New Year, while your cleaning out your metaphorical closet, I encourage you to take a close look at what your tossing out, upgrading and sweeping out the door. In your hurry to leave it all behind, you may be forgetting to take the sweetest gifts with you.
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12