Friday, April 12, 2013

The Mess That Makes It REAL

I own 46 Bibles.

But only one of them is REAL.

Now, I don't mean that the other 45 are fakes. Obviously, the other Bibles are equally God's Word. Many are study Bibles I use for teaching and for personal devotions. Others are various translations I use for work.

(NOTE: whenever you're reading a book with Scripture quotes, know that an editor has verified each scripture word-for-word against the cited translation. Back in the old days--before the Internet--we had to do this with hard copies.)

Each Bible in my library is valuable and serves a purpose in my spiritual and professional life.

But only one is my REAL Bible.

My grandparents gave it to me for Christmas when I turned 13. I don't know if you can read the inscription in the picture, but my Grannie wrote, in part:

"We have no other gift to give you that would contain all the answers to life's challenges the way this beautiful word of God can and will.

Keep very close by at all times, searching the scriptures for all the great truths and promises that will give you the strength and grace to face and overcome each disappointment and temptation that comes your way..."

I've carried this Bible for more than a quarter century.

It's been beside me through middle school drama... high school ups and downs... youth camps and sleepovers and Dawson McAllister conferences. (See that page number in the upper right corner? That's the starter page for the "Romans Road." Before I learned the books of the Bible, I used page numbers as reminders.)

It traveled with me to college--my faithful companion in the dorm room... college Bible studies... road trips... mission trips. (Oh, how I remember those early mornings in the dorm, wearing my fuzzy pig slippers and PJs, carrying my Bible and coffee maker to the end of the hall and setting up in one of the study cubicles.)

It was at arm's reach after college--beside me all those years I lived alone... on my desk at Word Publishing... eagerly studied at Dallas Seminary... and then Southwestern Seminary.

It came with me to my honeymoon... to the hospital rooms when I had my babies... to the six different churches we served and the seven places we lived.

It was clutched tightly when my marriage fell apart... when my world came crashing down... when I had to start all over again.

Its pages are crumpled, yellowed, smudged, taped back together, filled with underlines and notes and highlights. Its bonded leather cover had to be replaced several years ago when the stitching fell apart.

It's a mess.

But that only makes sense, because there's so much of ME in there. And I'm a mess too. ;)

It's the mess that makes it REAL.

All those notes. The tear stains. (And yes, coffee stains.) The underlines and the questions in the margins. Cross-references and comments on things I struggle with. Highlights to remind me of God's promises.

Let me say this again: this Bible not technically "more real" than any other version of the Bible.

But it's REAL to me.

In this messy Bible, God has met me on every page.

For more than 25 years.

The same God.

He met me in my middle school drama. In my high school grief. In my college questions. In my married issues. In my sleep-deprived mothering. In my middle-age anguish.

Every time I open this Bible, and I see all the mess and marks from all these years... I remember:

[God] Himself has said,
I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you."
(Hebrews 13:5)

This Bible is a tangible reminder that God is always with me.

No matter WHAT.


In much the same way that the mess of the pages makes a Bible REAL... the mess of our lives makes our faith REAL.

It's a long and painful process, to be sure.

You get marked up and tattered and taped. You get stained and torn. Sometimes your stitching completely falls apart and you have to get sewn back together.

But through it all, you are deeply loved by the Author of life.

And in the end, your faith becomes REAL.


“What is REAL?" asked the Velveteen Rabbit one day... "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When [someone] loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.

"Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand... once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

--Margery Williams, "The Velveteen Rabbit"


  1. WOW! Beautifully said Jennifer. When you were talking about how it is worn, tattered, ripped, has coffee stains, and sometimes needs to be stitched up... I think of everything I have done to God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.

    You are a very lucky person to have had those wonderful grandparents. The highest goal in life should be that we love one another. Your Grannie sounds like she was a great example.

  2. Love this! Thank you so much for sharing!