Having survived life in an Ozark cabin, the Bible, in its preponderance of size and weight, now adorned a coffee table inside a house surrounded by Arkansas cotton.
“Sharecroppers. That’s who my grandparents were,” my soon-to-be husband explained the first time we made the trip together, “I was born right there in that bedroom.”
Beneath the coffee table, wall-to-wall linoleum stretched across the room to a door ajar.
“Right there on that bed.”
A hint of a sag hollowed an otherwise smooth bedspread.
Voices, along with the aroma of frying okra and candied sweet potatoes, wafted from another adjacent room. His mom and his grandma, the long ago birthing assistant, prepared dinner while the two of us, not yet out of our teens, waited on the vinyl couch.
“This must be the family Bible.” I ran my hand over cracked, brown leather. Jesus, in muted colors with arms outstretched, smiled from an aging picture.
“Yep, and here,” my boyfriend opened the book, “is my family record from way back.”
“My family never had a big Bible like this.” I leafed through the thin pages, through Genesis, Psalms, and Proverbs, pausing at vintage pictures. “We all had our own Bibles, plenty of those, but nothing like this for the family.”
“I reckon this Bible helped keep the family together,” his head bent over mine. “Helped keep them sane through the hard times.”
“I reckon it did.” With care, I closed the book and sat back from the treasure. “I reckon it did.”
Still do. But I don’t reckon anymore. I know for sure the Word keeps folks sane.
My mother’s medium-sized Bible, had a black cover with corners rubbed down to expose the inner brown cardboard. Its translucent pages were marked with side notes in her flowing script. Its passages were underlined, often more than once.
As she struggled with raising four kids, farming, moving, living in unfinished spaces, teaching elementary school, or suffering the pain of cancer, how often did it keep her sane? Many times over.
Memorizing Bible texts dominated my biblical exposure through high school. On my fifteenth birthday, my parents gave me a trim Bible with smooth leather binding. At eighteen, after I married, I carried it on the bus ride to work and nodded at blurry words during my early morning transit.
Three years later, motherhood arrived. I began to read in earnest.
Time passed. Every season brought and continues to bring different ways the Bible restores. Over the years, I have learned a few Bible reading practices that help me:
- Open it first thing in the morning. Even before checking Facebook. I wish I could say I always do this.
- Pray for the Holy Spirit to teach me and bring concepts alive.
- Read the entire Bible through the lens of what Jesus taught and lived. His life and words are the standard for revealing the truth about God.
- Look for nuggets that reveal God’s character.
- Read God’s own words as though he speaks them to me alone. Treat it like a love letter.
- Think out of the box. Be open to new meaning and interpretation.
- Hebrew is a rich, multi-faceted language. Learn about it.
- Read everything in context and try to learn about the cultural context.
- Think of the Words as life-giving. They are!
- Don’t put it down until I find at least one take-away, one treasure that brings me peace, one promise that helps me maintain my sanity.
“Your Word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Psalms 119:105