I had this notion, when I thought about writing this article, that I’d remember some specific book that changed me, and really write its praises.
But the reality is that books themselves have changed me.
My earliest memory of a book was this red-leather-bound King James Bible that was about the size and thickness of an adult’s hand with gold edged almost transparent tissue thin pages. It had the best smell that to this day takes me back to marching across the living room furniture pretending to bring the gospel to natives deep in some unreached jungle.
My earliest memories of reading were ones fraught with fear and punishment. The tears I cried while my mother shouted at me to get things right cannot be counted. I was 4.
My mom would say that she homeschooled me, but until I was in my last two years of high school I’d say that I was part of a charter school with independent study and occasional testing at private and public school locations where our charter school testing was administered. Taking concurrent classes at the local junior college was the highlight of my school life.
Besides my forays into society at those times, my parents controlled (increasingly over time) every aspect of my life. The one place that I had complete freedom to explore and experience all that encompassed the planet I was born into was the worlds of the books I read (most of them being smuggled into the house without permission).
Books were a safe buffer for me to enter into concepts, circumstances, and characters that would otherwise have been foreign to me when I left home and entered the university dorm life at 18.
Books that held a myriad of world views, some absent of God, where people had no one but other fallible creatures to depend on. Books that dove as deep as they could into pondering life, philosophy, theology, science, and fantasy. There were narratives wrapped with questions of pain and joy, hope and despair, longing and disappointment…
The best books were honest about the hard of life, relationships, and the way that nothing ever ends up how you want, no matter how hard you plan or how thorough you prepare. They were blunt exposures to the raw humanity in their characters’ mental and emotional psyche, with clear displays of evil and sacrifice, and without perfect bow-tied endings. Stories where possibly the entire story changed because of one person’s decision to do the undeserved and unexpected.
In university I studied literature of all types and still, always, the professors came back in their lectures to ancient manuscripts that have influenced all literature and all thought. What surprised me from a highly biblically influenced upbringing, was that my teachers—even the ones claiming to be atheists—stated that the Bible was the oldest and most influential ancient text, which held every genre and archetype ever explored in time. That anything written would have been influenced somehow by the stories shared in the Bible.
The Bible Holding Space
Typically I don’t think much about how the Bible has changed me. I can list off a prolonged litany of books I loved as a little kid, the characters that filled me with admiration and wonderment, the ideas they inspired—and the worlds they made me fall in love with. Yet, I cannot remember a time when the Bible has not had space in my daily life. Because of this it was a reality more than an influence.
But when I think that what inspired all the books and their stories that I have loved so much
the characters that I clung to, and that took me through the hardships of my childhood
when I consider that it is what was recorded and preserved in the Bible, then copied, and recopied over time, again and again, that inspired and fueled all that has ever been written
then I think that it is the 66 books of ancient men and women of the Bible that has changed the lives of everyone who has ever heard a song, read a book, or seen a movie or play….and me.
Like the aroma of that little Bible I loved so much as a child, so our lives and our words spread on an aroma of those ancient stories foreshadowing a greater story (2 Corinthians 2:15-17).
And I wonder.
Who will my writing change? Who will be changed because the Bible has changed me?