When my Grandpa got sick a couple of years ago, my sisters and parents and aunts and uncles and I all began the bittersweet task of sorting through his things. He was very insistent that we take what we wanted of his extensive book collection, and he wanted us to do it while he was “still around” so he could see what each of us wanted. I think he saw it as a way of investing in us, and of giving us gifts. Gift-giving is always more fun when you can see the recipient open it, after all.
Grandpa and I had a shared passion for books – and more specifically, Bibles. Like him, I have a shelf solely devoted to different Bibles in different translations I’ve obtained one way or another at different times; when Grandpa said he wanted me to go through his Bibles, I jumped at the chance. I gathered several of them, and I still remember the satisfied grin on his face when he saw the books I had chosen, Bibles and otherwise. I knelt by his chair as he looked at my choices.
“Those are some good ones,” I remember him saying. “I hope you enjoy them.”
Grandpa passed away this past January, and I treasure all of those books much more than I ever thought I would.
I recently began a new personal Bible study. On the first day of the study, when the workbook said to look up a particular verse in several different translations, I went straight to my shelf of Bibles. For whatever reason, I immediately grabbed Grandpa’s 1970-printed copy of The Amplified Bible. I went back to my seat at the kitchen table, opened it up, and the first thing I saw was my own face looking back at me. The pages had fallen open to a makeshift bookmark: a picture of myself as a baby. (I’d share that picture with you, but if I’m honest, it’s not one I want on the internet. It features me in an ill-fitted cloth diaper…and nothing else.) I giggled at the picture….blinked back a few sentimental tears…..and continued my study for the day.
Since that morning, Grandpa’s old Bible has been an amazing tool of discovery. Every time I turn the page, I wonder what I’m going to find. You see, Grandpa was a Bible scholar. I wish I knew how many times he had read the Bible cover-to-cover, and each time, no doubt, he learned something new and wrote it in the margins. Verses are underlined, notes are squeezed between the columns, and entire passages are bracketed for emphasis. And just this morning, I found a dried flower petal tucked within the pages of Isaiah.
When I turn the page and see his markings, I eagerly read what he’s written and the verses that spoke to him. It’s like a window into his heart and a way of getting to know my Grandpa that I never fully took advantage of in this life. It has really changed everything about how I approach my Bible study every morning. There is a world to be discovered within those slightly musty pages.
Each time my study takes me to a new passage of Scripture, I flip the pages of this worn Bible in search of treasure. What will be underlined? What will he have written? What might I learn from him?
I’m kind of ashamed to admit that I haven’t always had that same kind of eager anticipation when reading Scripture. Sometimes, yes, I’ll be doing a Bible study that hits my heart in a new way, and will discover one powerful truth after another as I read the numbered verses. More often than not, though, I read my Bible more out of obligation than devotion. I see it as something I should do, rather than something I long to do, and I flip the pages more as an act of duty than of discovery. The black and white (and red) typeface all starts to look the same after awhile, and I too often forget that what I’m reading isn’t just another of the many, many mass-produced, impersonal books crowding my shelves. What I am reading is, in fact, a very personal letter written to me from my Father.
And in truth, just as Grandpa’s Bible has become a tool to discover hidden gems from my grandfather’s heart, the Bible itself has always been a treasure trove of wealth from the Father’s heart. I haven’t always found the treasure, though, because I haven’t always been looking. If it has felt impersonal, the blame falls squarely on me. He has given me His heart and through the words on the page, He asks for mine in return. It can’t get more personal than that.
I am learning that if I approach the Bible as a window without a view, I won’t see much of anything. If I approach it in anticipation of seeing something beautiful through it, though, I won’t be disappointed. The Bible is a picture window with an unobstructed view straight into the heart of the Creator God who loves me, and each page – each book – each column and verse and passage – holds invaluable wealth. Each word is precious because each word was meant for me. Each time I turn the page, I should be asking, “What will He have written? What might I learn from Him?”
So friends, maybe this isn’t something you struggle with. Maybe every time you open your Bible you do so with anticipation. Maybe you have a hard time seeing how the Bible could possibly be like just another book, and if so, that is awesome. I hope I can get to that point some day. But maybe you’re more like me, and maybe you have a hard time connecting your heart to the black and white words on the page. If that is you, like it is me, I offer this challenge: see it as a personal treasure, written and designed and given specifically to you, and turn each page with anticipation. Something is waiting for you there, and when you find it, it just might change everything. And maybe – just maybe – you’ll discover yourself, tucked right there between the pages.