Old Bibles, Milestones & Rites of Passage

Yesterday I received in the mail a Bible that I had been given by my parents as a gift for my high school graduation. What is more amazing is that I received it from Louis, my College roommate during my Sophomore year, who had retrieved it from the trash after I discarded it upon the purchase of a new Bible. He had kept it in a closet at his parents’ house all these years. His awareness that I was probably going through some ‘rite of passage’ and may later regret the disposal of a meaningful gift is greatly appreciated some 27 years down the road.

I have been asking myself why it was that I saw the need to discard that ‘old’ Bible. Perhaps it had to do with what the old represented to me at the time: a stale faith inherited from my parents, a Bible that I couldn’t understand, a life from which I wanted to distance myself (if only for a season) . . . I’m not really sure if I even thought it through back then.

Since that time, I’ve experienced many milestones, some of which demonstrated similar tendencies to throw out the old and embrace the new—most often hastily and recklessly. My wife informs me that I have a rebellious streak in me that still finds a degree of pleasure in breaking free from expectations.

Yet, perhaps as a sign of maturity or just because time has passed, I am understanding more the importance of history, my heritage, and tradition as a stabilising presence in my life. There is great value in being reminded of the past. It gives me a sense of place in life. It shows that my life today is what it is because of all that has gone before–whether or not it is (or is perceived to be) good or bad. It gives me a measure by which to see how I have traveled, where I have grown, and how I have become who I am today.

No, I don’t agree with my parents’ theology and I don’t share their convictions about the King James Bible (having replaced it in College with a New American Standard Bible and, lately, the NRSV). I do, however, thank God for the faith they displayed, the way they were willing to demonstrate their convictions, and the many verses, hymns, and principles I learned (often by rote) in their care.

And as a memento, I have an old Scofield Bible—pages falling out, very yellowed, and filled with copious scribbled notes—that belonged to my dad. It’s a tangible reminder of all that he believed was important in life and of the foundation he wanted to see for my life.

I also still have the NASB which I bought my second year of College. It traces my spiritual journey in the form of notes, things I learned, steps I took, and significant events including a date written in the flyleaf which I regard as the day I decided that I wanted to follow Jesus for myself and not live a secondhand faith.

And now I have the Bible I received when I finished high school. The binding’s broken, pages are falling out, the leather-look cover’s a bit worn. But to me it is a symbol of all my parents hoped and prayed for and a reminder that they wanted—and still want—God to grow me in love, truth, and grace. In the words of the old song, ‘Let it be, dear Lord. Let it be.’

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