The first bible I ever had was called The Way. The cover was decorated in 1979 youthfulness in hopes of getting teens like me to think it was way cool to read the bible. It had enormous letters big enough to fit pictures of faces inside them. I remember there being a very happy girl tucked into the word THE, an almost as happy guy with half of his face in the W and half in the A, and an inquisitive looking guy in the Y who looked like he was deep in thought and staring at a path that split in front of him, trying to decide whether he should take Frost’s advice to follow the road less traveled on.
A duct taped Bible is the owner’s Crown of Glory. It’s usually taped to keep the spine from separating from the well thumbed through pages that look like they’ve been perused for years, passing time with a saint so godly that they’d be happy as a clam getting burned at the stake or eaten by lions. A while back, one of my pastors accidentally left his bible on the hood of his car overnight and it rained. When he found it the next morning it had swelled to three times its size. He kept on using it, even when he preached, and it made his hands look small which I found to be metaphorical or symbolic or something, being how small we are compared to how big God is.
I’ve gone through many bibles since The Way. A white one I got for confirmation, at least one Gideon’s bible, a couple thin, free student ones, an NIV hardback . . . eventually they were all lost or torn or accidentally taken by someone in a study who thought it was theirs. Never mind, in Christendom it’s as easy to get a bible as a free t-shirt. They proliferate like laundry.
But having glanced down the pew enough times at the gray haired women and men with their roughed-up bibles and thick knuckled hands, necks bowed and pens ready in godly eagerness as they open their eternally patched together bibles, duct taped and margins cloudy with notes, I finally decided to take the leap. I bought me an expensive leather bible. I would keep it until it fell to pieces and it would be my glory. I would be the woman at the end of the pew with the thick knuckles and the pen at the ready, looking into the future like the God of the universe was pointing a penlight at every step he wanted me to take.
I eschewed the gold initials on the lower right side, but I did get one with a subdued floral, diamond design debossed in the leather. That was about 10 years ago, and over time it filled up with notes and questions in the margins, prayers in the back pages, underlines, some in pen some in markers and some, unfortunately, in Sharpie which bled to the other side of the page where it looked like I’d underlined halves of obscure verses.
About a year ago my bible made Crown of Glory status. One morning as I was reading I hesitantly, but oh-so-hopefully, pulled back on the spine and noticed it was separating from the pages. I ran to get the duct tape.
I wrote on my Instagram profile recently that puppies are the solution to everything. I’m not sure what I mean by this. I suppose I mean that in their complete cuteness—and the way they sometimes curl up next to you on the couch and, if they are a beagle, make a soft, humming/squeaky sound as they’re orbiting a cushion over and over, following their tail before they can finally settle and lie down—they’re just so overwhelmingly snuggly that even if my phone kept dinging like a tweet was going viral I wouldn’t bother with it.
Moose’s ears are so long the tips of them get wet when he drinks from his water dish. He belongs to my son and daughter-in-law and we puppy sit him from time to time when they go out of town. He’s somewhat destructive, puppy-normal destructive, so if we aren’t around we keep him in the kitchen. We have a gate. It’s supposed to keep puppies out, or in, whatever the case may be.
Beagle puppies can make their bodies as thin as ferrets, and like an oily city rat, can pass through spaces as narrow as sewer grates in a downpour.
The day Moose narrowed himself through the kitchen gate I had just gotten home from the grocery store. I immediately heard what was going on in the other room; I could hear the rustle of paper and something sliding, and chewing, and I swear, swallowing. There was no eerie silence the way there’s usually an eerie silence when a toddler gets into something. Puppies’ consciences aren’t as active as a child’s. I don’t think they care who hears them.
Of course, Moose was most interested in my bible. My Crown of Glory. When I walked into the room it looked like the book itself had detonated. My underlines, my insights, my memories like amnesiac thoughts scattered all over the room. There were patches of leather, and duct tape stuck like silver chewing gum in corners and under the coffee table. There were the actual pages; John, Matthew, Hosea, Leviticus. A good bit of Revelation over by the window. Paper spilled out of Moose’s mouth, his cute puppy spit on any number of holy words.
So. The next day I purchased a new bible with a faux leather cover. It’s not as expensive as My Crown of Glory was, however, It’s crisp and clean. The pages still stick together but that will change soon enough.
In the end I don’t really miss my scrappy bible. Honestly, I think most of the things I wrote in it and underlined are somewhat basic to me now, and I will always remember them regardless. At the time I think I wanted my bible to match myself; all duct taped up and real; all worn and patched together the way following Christ can sometimes feel. But of course the truth is that after all of these years it’s the words of my bible and not the leather and onionskin of it that have measured me more and more into the image of God, so that what I have now – this crisp, new thing – after half a life of turning the pages of bibles, suites me really well.