One of my fondest childhood memories was starting religious education classes in elementary school. I attended a public school, so religious education wasn’t a typical class or mandatory. The kids who enrolled came together in the gymnasium once a week for a Sunday School-type class. Reaching the second grade and becoming eligible was a long-awaited milestone for me. I proudly marched the permission paper home and got the official signatures from my mother and father. So, there I was, excited and starting my new adventure.
For my birthday that year, I asked for a Bible. My paternal grandparents were staunch, religious people, so it seemed fitting that the gift came from them. They gave me the most beautiful white leather Bible I had ever seen. It was nothing like the one that we used at church. This was much fancier, with a zipper around the cover and a dangling gold cross pull. It simply took my breath away. I felt grown up and proud to be carrying such a fine book. It was my prized possession, and I took special care of it. This became the holder of all things precious to me at various stages throughout my life.
One summer, I carried my Bible back and forth to Vacation Bible School. They challenged us to memorize a verse by the end of the week, and we would win a prize if successful. I don’t know if it was the idea of a prize or the challenge itself, but I remember being determined to accomplish this. Every day, I recited a portion of the verse and won tickets that were saved until the end of the week. I put the tickets in my Bible, zipped them inside, and checked them often. By Friday, I could recite John 3:16 from memory, and I reached into my Bible and took out the allotted number of tickets for that coveted prize. This may have been the first time that my Bible served as the holder of all things precious to me, and because it did it so well, it set a precedent.
Growing up, I had an aunt with whom I developed a close relationship. I enjoyed our time together. She was my mentor. My aunt taught me how to sew, hang wallpaper and make ‘spiral ash.’ We shared many memorable moments. To my surprise, she took an extraordinary photograph during our summer vacation. That year, she put the picture inside my birthday card. I opened it and knew we had a mutual understanding. It was more than just a photo. Our eyes met, but we didn’t need to say a word. We had our secrets, and she understood me when I felt no one else did. That picture spent many years inside my white Bible. It represented that special relationship that I had at a time in my life when I needed it most.
In 1987, I was a young mother of two when I placed a newspaper article between the pages of my Bible. An eighteen-month-old girl in Texas had fallen into an unused oil well below the ground. Trapped for two days while America watched and prayed. My daughter was the same age, yet she was home sleeping safely in her bed, and my heart broke for that baby and her family, who could do nothing to help her. Two days later, they took her photograph when they brought her out of the ground and published it in all the newspapers across America. I cut the picture, gently folded it, and placed it inside my Bible. It has yellowed with age but is safe between the pages today.
Many things have come and gone from between the pages, and my Bible has held everything precious to me for a long time. The years have aged its white leather cover, and it looks closer to yellow or maybe a shade of tan. I am careful with the zipper that is now tarnished dark. It’s not just a book, nor is it just a Bible. It’s been with me for most of my life. First, it was a gift, then a comforting friend, a trusted confidant, and a life partner.