So, I can't say that I had a particular religious fervor in my youth. I never attended church camps or vacation Bible schools. Bible drill? What's that? I knew a few of the hymns, learned how to pray the "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep" prayer at a young age and heard lots about Hell fire, but that was about it.
My true relationship with Christ didn't begin until I was in college. That was also when a benevolent boyfriend, upon learning that I had didn't own my own Bible, bought one for me. It was a sacrifice for him financially, and I still have it stored among my treasures.
Today, with our touch-screen technology, it's easy to toss aside our leather-bound scripture for something with more, let's say, functionality. I see many youths and young children, including my own, walking around without their Bible or, at best with it on their phone. And I can't say I blame them. I mean, it's easy reference, lightweight and, if your one who is concerned about such things, discreet. And that's exactly the problem.
As a mom, I've become increasingly aware that my kids don't carry their Bibles to church, and it's disturbing to me. Here are five reasons I think carrying a Bible, at least to church, should be a requirement for our kids, if not for ourselves.
1) Heft. Let's face it, unless you're carrying around the pocket version with the too-tiny print, then your Bible is probably pretty heavy. It's bulky and sometimes cumbersome to carry, especially if you have the unabridged study Bible with Hebrew-to-English translations. And that's exactly the point.
The word of God is heavy. It's laden with guidance for our every day lives in great detail. It's not the Wiki-pedia version of God's Word. This IS God's Word. And by carrying it around in our hands, feeling the weight of it, we are reminded that our faith is not to be lightly held. It is a beautiful weighty gift that should not be left behind when we walk out the door.
2) Visibility. We should never carry a Bible just for the sake of doing so, and I don't advocate hypocritical behavior. On the contrary. If you are carrying your Bible - to church, the office, to class - you'd better watch your choices. Because someone will see what you have in your hand and they will judge you - and often Christ - by the way you conduct yourself.
It's much easier to slide our iPhones into our pockets, hiding our beliefs inside an App, than to openly carry your beliefs on top of your book pile. It's as if you are carrying Jesus right there under your arm, an ever-present reminder of the greater call of Christianity. And by doing so, you have the best accountability partner imaginable.
3) Connection. I don't know about you, but it's very hard for me to feel connected through technology. Texting, while convenient, is a very cold way to communicate. So is facebook and even facetime. These are fantastic new ways of touching base with someone, but they don't have the same effect as being face-to-face with a person, hearing their voice and touching their skin.
It's the same with the Bible. Reading it on a screen is not the same and flipping those flimsy pages and truly digging into God's Word. There's a connectivity there that can't be felt through the Holy Bible App on your phone. And sometimes we don't need the "quick reference" guide. Instead, we should be turning the pages, contemplating on where God wants us to go to next.
4) History. Before my college boyfriend gave me my new Bible, I'd been carrying around a beat up red leather one that belonged to my mother. It had her graceful cursive in the margins and dog eared from times in her life when the scripture spoke to her. It even had a family tree in the back outlining our heritage.
That Bible, which I still have to this day, was special to me because of what it represented: history. A child's Bible is their first tangible connection with the Lord; it's something to be cherished, scribbled in, and marked. It's the child's first spiritual journal, marking a time in their lives when God is beginning to shape their faith. And that's just not something you can do on your smartphone.
5) Reflection. The marks and scribbles I mentioned above remain in that book forever. As the child grows, hopefully maturing in their faith, they will most likely stumble over the notes in the margin made years before. If they are anything like me, they'll run their fingers over the script, remembering the moment that particular passage was needed. It may remind them of a renewal of their faith, or a shoring up in troubled times. At any rate, those dog ears will mark time, much like a map of their spiritual journey. And it's in the looking back over our conversations with God that we can be reminded, once again, of His unending faithfulness.
I guess you can say I'm an advocate for open carry - of Bibles, that is.
I'm not a prude. I don't expect my kids to quote scripture on demand or convert every random person they meet on the street. But, I do expect them to take their faith seriously. Christ is not a medallion to be worn on our necks or to be stuck to our cars, just for us to turn around and act any way we choose.
He's not an App or a facebook post. He's real. He's tangible. He's present. And what better way to remember this than by holding in our hands a hefty compass by which to guide our lives?