I once had a Murphy’s Law calendar which offered a daily page with a humorous variation on the famous maxim, whatever can go wrong will go wrong. It may seem this piece is a perfect example of the truth of Murphy’s Law; I’m not following my gracious host’s plan that a few guest writers talk about the Bible they use daily for study and prayer. Even so, I do propose to share a little about a Bible I use every day, just in another way. It’s sitting on the desk next to me now, in fact, not being read, but still in an important way, in use nonetheless. The story of this little Bible parallels my own faith journey; it’s been with me through it all and is with me still, every day. I’ll begin by telling you about the Bible itself, and then how it fits into my story.
It’s easy to provide you a description of the volume – it's an RSV edition published by Thomas Nelson & Sons in the early 1950s. It’s quite small, only 5 ½ by 7 ½ . As you might expect with such a small book, the print is small although still legible; it has few study aids, no maps, concordance or the like. It’s a no nonsense little volume, typical of Bibles its age. Because of its age, the wear and tear it’s seen is clearly visible and so I no longer risk putting it through daily use.
As for my faith journey, when I was seven years old I was baptized in a Lutheran church in St Clair Shores, Michigan. My parents wanted to let me choose when I was ready to take such a step, so I wasn’t baptized as an infant. When they decided it was time to ask me, I agreed, obviously being led by the Spirit because I don’t think I clearly understood what I was doing. After my baptism, on beautiful April morning, much to my surprise, my aunt and uncle gave me this Bible to commemorate the event. It was enclosed in a maroon box wrapped in white wrapping paper and I loved it. All through my elementary and high school years, by which time we were Presbyterians, I used my Bible for reading and taking to church each week for Sunday school and to refer to during the pastor’s sermons.
Back then, I was pretty ardent in my faith and my Scot’s Calvinist aunt was absolutely certain I would grow up to become a famous Presbyterian pastor, along the lines of Peter Marshall. It wasn’t to be; about the time I graduated from high school I decided that I was through with “organized religion.” When I joined the Air Force soon after, I knew I was no longer a believer. Yet, this Bible, now a little worn but still in good shape, went with me to Lackland AFB for basic training and, later, to Sheppard AFB where I spent two years of my enlistment. I don’t know why I other than to say it was God acting in my life, maybe trying to keep me from straying too far. It could only have been the Spirit which made me pick up my Bible now and then and read a familiar passage, Psalm 23 perhaps, or the first chapter of Genesis. Perhaps God was reminding me that He was near and wanted me to come back to Him.
When I went to Viet Nam, however, the Bible stayed with my parents and I forgot about it, sort of like my faith, until my mother passed away roughly 15 years later. One day I was sorting out her things and found it carefully stored in her dresser drawer. She had kept it safe for me and must have used it herself, judging by the signs of wear it now showed.
I was shocked and, surprisingly, elated at the same time; it was like finding an old, long lost but still much loved friend. Even though I still claimed I didn’t believe in God, I think it was at His instigation that I again opened up my Bible on occasion and reread those familiar passages from my youth. It must have been so, because it was only a couple of years later I began my journey back to faith by becoming a member of a Presbyterian church in El Paso, Texas. Once more I was using my Bible regularly, but by now it was obvious it wouldn’t hold up to that, it was tattered and becoming fragile and so I purchased a nice new NIV version for daily use.
Within five years I found myself receiving the sacraments of the Church at the Easter Vigil in 1995. Just a few days later I happened to spot my first Bible on the bookshelf. I picked it up and opened it to my aunt's inscription, written nearly 41 years to the day of our reception into the Church.
It’s because of that inscription, and the occasion it marks, that my Bible is never far from me; I look at it often because it reminds me of the incredible journey I’ve been on, a long and hard one, beginning with my baptism so long ago. While it started with an ill-informed decision, I see it could only have been through the working of the Spirit that I made it at all. Also, I can’t help but see that, when I chose to run away from God, I left my Bible behind too. And when I woke up to the truth, my old friend was there again to help me return to the God I thought I’d left behind so long ago.
Finally, my Bible shows me that God can work in mysterious ways indeed. I know my Scots Calvinist aunt had a plan that, in giving me that Bible, she thought she was guiding me to become a Presbyterian minister. She could never have imagined it would lead me to Rome instead. It calls to mind a saying from that old Murphy’s Law calendar: “The best laid plans of mice and men are usually about equal.” My Bible offers daily proof of that, my own and my aunts. Come to think of it, maybe things haven’t gone too wrong after all.
Thank you to Ronald for sharing with us. If you would be interested in participating in the "Your Bible" series, just send an email to me at: mccorm45(at)yahoo(dot)com.