This Sunday we will be baptizing one of our young people into the church and, like so many churches do at a baptism, we will present her with a Bible. However, a Bible is a big scary object, full of millions of words and some very alarming stories. How, then, shall we encourage our newly baptized member to keep opening it up? How shall we encourage her to keep bringing her questions, fears and dreamings to this book? How shall we point to the Word of Life we have found in its pages, when there are so many words and so many pages to navigate?
The answer is: We’ll write in it! We have bought an edition of the Bible which has nice wide margins and lots of space for writing. After the baptism, you will be invited to open up this brand spanking new Bible, highlight one of your favourite verses or passages, and sign your name beside it. You might also write a brief explanation or message beside the verse(s) you have highlighted. This way, when our newest member opens her Bible she will find not only the Word of Life, but words of encouragement and connection from her siblings in Christ.
Doing this also gives her permission to write in the Bible herself. God’s Word is incredibly important to us: but we don’t worship the Bible as an object. Instead, we read it and wrestle with it, engage with it and learn from it, so that it becomes written on our heart, transforming us from the inside out. One way to do this is to write all over it: highlighting verses, making notes, scribbling down questions and prayers, marking cross-references, and doing whatever else it takes to plant those words deep in our hearts.
Of course, writing in a pristine book is kinda scary: so by writing in it first, we pave the way for our new sister to write all over it, too. And let us hope that one day her Bible will be dog-eared, broken-backed, and scribbled all over, evidence of years of wondering and praying and questioning and responding to the Word which speaks through its pages.
As for yourself, if you haven’t written in a Bible before, why not try it. There are various entry points to Bible journalling, but at heart they’re all about listening for and responding to God’s Word, and resting in God’s presence.
For example, you might try prayerful reading: Read a passage slowly and attentively, three or more times through, heart wide open. Notice which phrase or verse jumps out at you. Highlight or underline it, then reflect on how it comforts you, challenges you, or invites you into action. Pray for anything which arises out of your reflection, and, if appropriate, make a note of your prayer in the margins. (Obviously don’t make such personal notes that you need to keep your Bible under lock and key.) (For more on prayerful reading, go here.)
You could also try artistic journalling: Begin as in prayerful reading. This time, however, when something jumps out at you, wonder why it makes such an impression on you; wonder what you are called to be and do; wonder how you can represent this graphically. You might hand letter a key verse, highlighting powerful words and phrases; or you might draw your response or an image from your prayer right across the text you are meditating on. Whether hand lettering or drawing, the time should be meditative, a way of both being in and recording your response to God’s presence and God’s Word.
We all have thousands of inputs every day, and it can be hard to notice, let alone recall, all the times and ways God speaks to us. Journalling as you read the Bible will help you slow down and dwell in the Word and let it dwell in you. You will build a record not only of your questions and wonderings, but of all the times God speaks to you. Then each time you open the Bible again, you will be reminded of its impact, and, I hope, encouraged in your faith, just as our newest sister will be encouraged by the words you write in her Bible this Sunday.
Tools for the Journey
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