Monday, March 21, 2011

Mark, Read and Inwardly Digest

by Alice Valdal
  How often have we heard teachers say those words then diligently circle, underline and star sections of our study materials?  When I was in high school, we bought our textbooks and I always tried to buy a used copy from a good student a year or so ahead of me.  That person had usually marked the important passages, and if I was lucky, had even made a few notes in the margin -- saving me the trouble of doing some of my own homework.
    I'm a great fan of used music.  Not only do I get the notes on the page, I often come across markings from a previous singer, alerting me to troublesome spots or giving me a hint as to how to handle a difficult phrase.
     I once heard a preacher say he enjoyed browsing in used book stores and sometimes bought a volume because of the marginalia.  As he described the experience, not only did he get to have a conversation with the author of the book, he also had a conversation with the previous owner.  
      It seems we're happy enough to mark up our school book (some pedants even like to "correct" the text in library books) or to make notes on a score or scribble all over a manuscript, but when it comes to our Bibles, we put our pens away, not wishing to mar the holy text.  And yet, aren't our Bibles textbooks too?  Instead of teaching us physics or English, they provide instruction for living.  Surely the study of such a text warrants the odd asterisk or question mark, not to mention the underlining of a favourite passage.  And yet, we strive to keep the pages of this most important Book pristine.  In Bible Study on Wednesday mornings, Irwin has resorted to handing out the relevant text on a sheet of paper to encourage us to make notes and draw connecting lines and even add a few exclamation points.  Somehow, it seems acceptable to mark up a  photocopy, but not the real Book. 
    In a way, that  attitude is too bad.  I have inherited my mother's Bible as well as a New Testament that belonged to my dad.  In times of grief, I have searched the pages of these two texts for hints of what my parents valued, what words touched their hearts, what psalms brought comfort.  In vain have I sought an underlined passage or a note in the margin.  I know both of these books were well-read and whole sections committed to memory, but not a hint of the previous owner is visible on the pages. 
     I don't advocate defacing the Bible, or any other book for that matter, but I think perhaps a mark, in pencil, to denote a favourite psalm or to highlight a pivotal passage might be in order, a record of my conversation with the author.  After all, my Bible is not a museum piece, it's an instruction manual.  Anyone can tell my favourite recipes by the splatters in my cook book.  Shouldn't my Bible bear some trace of use?
     What about you?  Will your inheritors find a record of your personal faith in the pages of the family Bible?

Alice is a member of the choir at SPPC, a faithful participant in the Bible Study and a luddite who still prefers paper books to electronic ones.

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