Falling APART

When I was in bible college I had a paperback bible, the cheap sort they give away in church seat-backs, the sort zealots cover with stickers identifying who they are apart from the words inside the book. My stickers were hiking destinations, a round REI one, a Life is Good stick figure standing on the side of a mountain.

The truth was my bible was falling apart and the stickers were holding it together. The spine was all but gone and the pages were falling out in chunks, particularly in the New Testament. One of my professors took one look at it and quipped, “A Bible that’s falling apart is a sign of a person who’s not.”

I swallowed the line that day.

I may have been in bible college but I was not a Christian. Not in the sense that I understood the Gospel was not self-help rhetoric, but a life-changing, redemptive way—the only way. This was before my brother died, before a group from the Bible college traveled 14 hours to my home for a funeral, and shared the gospel with me over broken bread and broken bodies on the eve of Easter. I had that bible with me that night, clutched it in hope there was hope out of this nightmare.

The church I found shortly after that Easter used the NASB translation and a teacher/professor/mentor there gifted me with my own leather-bound bible a few weeks before my 21st birthday.

But I never forgot what the first professor said about a bible that was falling apart.

And years later when my NASB was frayed and torn and falling apart and my life was too, I wanted to shake my fist at everything I thought to be true about faith, which was this: the harder you try, the better it will go for you.

It is ironic, then, that the person who gifted me with my current bible, a simple black leather-bound, was someone who had left the faith in a way. He’d wandered across the world and the United States for years, landing in our small college town for a few months, becoming my friend. We would talk for hours about faith and argue and he would frustrate me and I wanted to shake him so hard sometimes because it didn’t even seem like he was trying.

It took someone who was falling apart to show me a bible that is falling apart is not the sign of someone who isn’t. A bible that is falling apart might actually be a sign of someone who is trying to hold their world together.

I left my NASB back in New York when I moved here, in a trunk in a dusty attic, not forgotten, but not necessary to prove my worth anymore. I need it, though, for a class I’ll be beginning soon and so my brother dug it out and is mailing it to me this week. He texted me a photo just to make sure it’s the right one.

photo

Holy. I said. Yes, it’s the right one.

Holy is right, he said back.

Here is what I know about holiness: sometimes we bring rags before the King of Kings, rags because we have been torn and ravaged by life. And sometimes we bring rags before the King of Kings, rags because we have torn our own clothes, we have beaten our chests with candoitiveness and fortitude. We have shouted our worth and proved it by our piety. But in the end, it’s rags we all bring before Him, falling apart lives, brokenness, emptiness, nothingness, and He breaks in, shouts our worth, and covers us with the finest robes, the signet ring.

And sometimes He does it in unlikely ways, through unlikely people, through people who are falling apart and a bible that isn’t.

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8 responses to Falling APART

  1. Loved this. I remember, too, feeling like the way my Bible looked was some reflection on how great of a Christian I was. I found this line especially compelling: “A bible that is falling apart might actually be a sign of someone who is trying to hold their world together.” Thanks Lore.

  2. Thanks Addie. I was thinking of you while writing it =) Silly, isn’t it? The things we think prove our worth? Meanwhile He’s shouting our worth with every particle of creation…

  3. Confession: About 10 years ago, I left my Bible in the back of my car for weeks in the summertime and by the time I dragged myself to open it again, it was all wind-battered (from open windows) and sun bleached. I was (strangely) proud at how used it looked. And I remember then someone making a comment like the one above. Surely, at the time the wear and tear on my Bible was a clear indication of how much of a mess my life was.

    Good words Lo. I’m thankful for your voice in this.

  4. I hope I wasn’t the person who made the comment =) 10 years ago we would have been living together—or near to that season. 10 YEARS friend? 10 YEARS? Crazy. Gosh I love you.

  5. I admit there have been times when people have said something similar when Acts-Ephesians fell in one big chunk out of my Bible that I had to fight feelings of empty pride. Oh the silly ways we use appearance to determine the state of our hearts and souls. I’ve since gotten a new Bible, and kind of hope it doesn’t become a duct taped mess.

  6. I’ve had the black one gifted to me by my friend for two years now. It’s holding up very well—though I’m much gentler with it than the one pictured above. That one went through wilderness camping trips, canoeing expeditions, winter camping, and overseas about ten times…that sort of things takes a toll on anyone =)

  7. Lore-
    Enjoyed your post.
    I am actually teaching about the Bible and using this very quote (and a picture of a duct-taped Bible) in my lesson tomorrow.
    Hopefully, I will teach them the reality behind the fact that a person who is in God’s Word regularly (and their Bible may or may not show the wear-and-tear) seeking His face, His grace, His revelation to jacked-up people are better off than those who try to make it up as they go.
    But, I do appreciate your post because it reminds me that the used-looking Bible may be from hours of study….or, from a really hard trip down a river in a backpack.
    Blessings on your ministry and your walk with the Lord.
    Jeff

    BTW, the picture is from my buddy who has a jacked-up Bible and a non-jacked-up life.

  8. Hi!
    I’ve been following you on Twitter for a while. I love your writing style as I am a writer myself. I’m planning to share this story on my facebook page with my followers. There aren’t many but I know it will bless them. Stop by if you have a minute.
    Thank you!
    Dana

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