One day a young man walked in to church carrying his bible. And then he walked out carrying that same Bible. It felt good. It felt right. All those pages filled with yellow highlights from dearly departed ancestors, aimed at delivering comfort and inspiration in a time of crises. All those cracked and worn parts of the binding, the way it fit so comfortably in the palms of his hands.
He had missed many, many months of Sundays and it felt good to reconnect. In fact on his way out of church the man felt sad having all that meaning and solidarity start to fade away with the last strains of the music. He wished he could keep the same surety of purpose and the same spiritual high that I felt so unwavering in the chapel. He didn’t want the spirit to dissipate.
So he decided to keep his Bible close by him in the car as he waited at the light to leave the church parking lot. When he merged in with the full pot luck of believers and non-believers out on the highway he continued to clutch his Bible even tighter to hold on to that good feeling. And it helped. It made the man feel less rudderless.
When he stopped to pick his wife up to go shopping at the mall he took his Bible with him there too. It was a bit cumbersome of course, holding his leather covered bible in one hand while balancing a retail shopping bag on his other, but the man held on nonetheless and was glad to do it.
As he waited for a crosswalk light to turn green—the young man heard an angry sounding voice behind him: “Oh your kind is SO smug the way you judge others.” “You church people are all alike with your bible thumping. Tell me, are you too good for the likes of me?”
It was a homeless man leaning on a brick wall. He had never seen him. But the homeless man had surely seen him. And of all the countless other’s passing by, the man carrying the Bible stood out and was the only one that bothered him.
Along the way he couldn’t help notice that people were looking differently at him. So many of the passing patrons would glance at the Bible in his hand and then look up to measure his face.
When interacting at the check-out line with the young female clerk, a concerned manager standing nearby behind the clerk on alert. As he was receiving his receipt to go, the clerk, noticing his suit and tie and the Bible he was gripping, and asked him if he had just gotten out of church. The young man replied in the affirmative and said that he was “mighty pleased” to have finally made it too. The clerk answered by saying “oh yes, I need to get back too.” It was very breezy and innocuous chit chat.
But as the young man walked away, he could hear the store manager take the young lady to task by reminding her that their store was non-judgmental and neutral when it came to values and morals and therefore he would appreciate it if she would leave any religious comments outside the door.
By the time he got home, the young man felt rather shaken up by the new reactions that he got from strangers on such a short series of errands out in public. He also felt resentment mix in with his confusion. “I am innocent. What do I do to deserve this?”
Still the young man made sure to keep it around the house upon his return too. He was determined NOT to relegate it to being just another dust collector on the furthest reaches of his book shelf. Again he wanted it to remain as part of his ensemble after experiencing such a positive church service.
At work the next day, the young man brought his family Bible on the metro train to commute to work. As he held on to the metal pole in front of him with his Bible hanging in his other arm, he noticed more faces stealing glances at him and studying his features. When he got to his office cubicle he left his Bible on the right side of his desk. It gave him solace.
Especially with the rat race that was swirling around him that week.
When his boss swung by to check on his progress with some report writing deadline, he noticed him do a double take when he saw the Bible. “Is everything all right with you?” “Are you feeling OK?” he inquired in a hushed tone. The young man assured him that he felt great.
When he returned from his lunch break he noticed that a new office memo on his desk but NO Bible. The young man’s brain spun in clueless circles. “What happened? “Did the janitor throw it out?”
No. It seems one of his co-workers had placed it inside one of his desk drawers so it wouldn’t be out in plain sight and break any company policies on tolerance.
Returning on the metro train that night, the young man met his girlfriend and another couple at a restaurant for a double date. His Bible joined him. The awkward pauses this produced were many. The other couple saw his Bible and instantly backed away from discussing any topics they felt that might be too risqué or inappropriate. No one ordered an alcoholic drink. The only jokes said were by the young man—and even when the punchline was funny, the other people weren’t sure whether to laugh until he laughed first.
The date ended early. The others were polite but never at ease.
When he got home, the young man was determined to not hide it away like he had done for the better part of the past 2 years.
But perhaps taking his Bible everywhere he went was just not in the cards for him. It seemed to change things too much. He didn’t like the conflict. He didn’t want to feel that kind of resentment anymore. He didn’t want to be a stumbling block for others either.
But the next morning, when he passed the room where his Bible lay on a table, the young man stopped and cracked open the cozily worn pages for the first time outside of Church. He dared even to refer to a passage or two and read them in their entirety. He read one uplifting passage after another. The words seemed to know him. The real him that was a secret to everyone else.
The passages cut right through his heart like a dividing sword. Most of all he revisited key verses highlighted from family members before him. Soon he learned of being “bought with a price” and why he got such a reaction out in public.
The old conflict from the night before came flooding back. He was not the confrontational type. Perhaps he should just put it away back on the shelf and get back to his normal life.
So the young man tried to wrap himself up with busy tasks of technology. He texted. He twittered. He skyped. He pre-programmed TV shows. But the words that he had read kept repeating back to him in unguarded moments.
He turned off his IPAD and his cell phone returned to pull his Bible back out. It seemed to be a magnet.
It felt like heaven to touch.
“Hey wait a minute!” he thought to himself. “It’s what INSIDE the book that matters the most!”
And so while the young man may have gone on to carry his Bible a tad less in public (it was rather hard to juggle while holding on to the metal pole on the metro train) he found that he READ it more and more—voraciously as a matter of fact. In the course of all this, he became more secure with himself and less concerned with how he appeared in public.
And he learned an incalculably critical lesson that day: Carrying the Bible is great—even courageous of course, in this day and age, but carrying it in his HEART—well that made all the difference in the world!