The Day I Took My Bible Out of My Bag

Ok… That was clickbait. But I’m only slightly ashamed because this is a story about exactly that. A few weeks ago I took my Bible out of my bag.

I carry a black, inexpensive canvass over-the-shoulder bag. It's a little bit bigger than a murse (man purse) and a little bit smaller than a backpack. I usually carry an apple device or two, a book of some sort, a notebook and my Bible in my bag, but for some reason on a Thursday night as I was trying to take some of the weight out of it, I saw my Bible laying there.

My first thought was along the lines of I have the Bible app on my iPad, so it’s a no-brainer to take my physical Bible out. Then my mind raced into an internal conversation not meant to be had on any verbal level.

"You can’t take your Bible out of your bag; you always have your Bible with you. What would it say about your spiritual health if you take your Bible out of your bag? Would anyone else notice that you don’t have your Bible with you anymore?"

Ridiculous. I know. But my life is steeped in these traditions and constructs that help me make sense of myself and my experiences and as crazy as it seems to be, I know that there are underlying conversations and realities that inform a moment in which I am contemplating taking a physical copy of the Bible out of my bag.

Because this moment seemed to cut me to the core a little more than I had expected I naturally or maybe unnaturally pressed into it. What about this moment is so hard for me? What kind of disruption am I sensing? How can I run towards it instead of away from it?

In the midst of this, I began to notice a few things about myself. Some good. Some not so good.

I’m much more interested in the appearance of my life than I’d like to admit.

Maybe this is true for everyone on some level and we are either aware or unaware of it, but I would love to think of myself as a self-confident, in a good way, person who does not allow the opinions of others to overly govern the decisions and emotions that take up space in my life. I would love to fancy myself as a person that can allow my appearance to be a small piece of what is the actuality of my life and thus to have a minuscule weight when it comes to importance.

But alas… In this moment of decision I realized that there are still strongholds in my life that appearance has it’s hands around. There is still a space within me that craves approval and the satisfaction of another’s praise.

I stand guard over tradition with a sense of fear, not freedom.

On one hand, it is inconsequential whether or not I have my Bible in my bag. I have it on my phone. I have it on my iPad. I have one at the office. I have about seven at home. If I need or want or have to read it, it is readily available.

So if it’s not that, then what is it?

You might not believe me when I say this, but people didn’t always have this kind of unfettered access to the Bible. There was a day and time when iDevices didn’t exist and there was no app that made the Bible available in unimaginable ways. Print was precious. It was special. And especially the printed Word.

Please don’t hear me say that this specialness and preciousness of print is a bad thing. But do hear me say that it is a culturally contextual thing. It lives in me because it lived in a culture that valued it. So because print was special to generations before me, it is special to me.

In some way I think that if I am able to uphold the traditions of old, like the value of the printed Word, that I am a better person, dare I say Christian. And somewhere in this conversation I own an elitist point of view that is drenched in fear. A fear that somehow letting go of things that are important to people around me will cause me to lose something of myself.

Again, ridiculous, I know. But liberatingly true.

I love the Bible.

One thing I noticed in this internal interaction was that I actually cared. For some reason this Book has been in my bag for a while. Sometimes untouched. Sometimes ravenously poured over. Always there.

There is a lot about it I don’t understand. Things in it that don’t make sense to me. Statements that make me cringe. Words that give me hope. Passages that fill me with emotion. I find some sense of comforting solidarity in knowing that I am reading from the same book that the rest of humanity is reading from. Sure, we obviously aren’t all agreeing on what it means and how to read it, but we all have basically the same thing in our hands. 

The connection I make with God through the Bible is more than just some sort of knowledge tank being filled with facts and data. It is a commonality that I inherit when I open its pages. An inherent union with people I will never meet. The vastness of its scope brings me to a humbling realization of my smallness and calls me into a greater relationship with God.

 

Who knew that taking my Bible out of my bag would be the moment that God opened me up to make more space for Him. I am continually amazed.

Austin Smith

Charlotte, NC, USA