The seminary I attended had a very small student population, but it nevertheless managed to bring together a diverse group of people together for the journey. One of my classmates had a bible that many of (ok, me) were jealous of. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t the best translation, and it didn’t have excellent study notes. What made the bible so attractive was the worn out look. Here was a bible that had been well handled. You could look at it and see the mark of the years and you just knew that this bible belonged to a serious christ-follower. Only a genuine student of Jesus could have worn a bible out so thoroughly.
This was the second time I have experienced this “bible envy.” As a teen I attended a small youth group that went away on a retreat. The retreat leader was maybe 20 and his bible was covered in duct tape. He claimed he had read it so much it began to fall apart and that it was way cheaper to buy a roll of tape to rebuild it than to buy a new bible. Whatever the truth is, the prop was memorable and the point was made.
Many of us have seen such bibles. I imagine many of us have desired to be the sort of person who would have such a bible. These bibles suggest a sincerity of faith, devotion, diligence, and self-discipline that is admirable. The world, the church, and our own souls need us to be that sort of deeply-formed-by-the-word-of-God people who carry worn out bibles.
They say the best way to get started at something is to break it into the smallest steps. I even read of a very overweight guy who went to the gym everyday for 3 months to do a 5 minute work-out, just so he could convince himself he was the sort of guy who went to the gym everyday. 5 minutes was not enough but it started the habit and eventually he started staying longer and ultimately lost (and kept off) over 100 pounds and regained the freedom to go on many an adventure.
How does a bible get so worn out?
There are a few surprisingly obvious and simple and (most importantly) small steps we can take.
1- For a bible to get worn out and used it needs to be handy, that is to say, close at hand. Leave it out somewhere that is “high traffic” in your home, maybe where your phone charges, or drink sits, or keys are found. It will get a bit beat up this way even if you never touch it (though this would require a remarkable amount of time and not likely get you exactly the beat-up look you are hoping for, like letting your jeans rip rather than paying someone else to rip them just-so:)
2- Pick it up. The analog to the 5 minute work out might well be to simply handle the Bible everyday, without actually reading it. Pick it up, feel the weight of it until you are comfortable with it instead of scared or intimidated. The idea is that you might go from thinking “that is just way too big of a book for me to read” to “sure I hold books that big all the time” and suddenly find the confidence to begin tackling the thing. Seriously, consider picking up a bible and holding it for a minute every day without reading it, maybe pray for that minute, or listen to a hymn.
3&4- to get a bible well and truly worn two more practices are needed and they really go together: you must read it and mark it up while you do. You can read as little or as much as you have time and interest for each day. Reading it everyday may or may not get you through it in a year, that’s not the point, the point is to read it everyday. For it to be well and truly worn out though, for the pages to really crinkle and pop, for it to be the biblical envy of another person, one must write in the bible, stuff little notes into the bible and generally abuse the physical bible: highlight, underline, annotate, crack the spine, whatever, mark it up and make it yours.
If you do these 3 (4) simple practices you will eventually have the perfectly worn in bible, the sort other church-goers, seminarians, and the like will look at and be inspired by. You would be doing them a favour because maybe they will pick up their bible and abuse it and the cycle can continue on, generation to generation.
Importantly, the well worn grooves of that bible would have made similar well worn groves in you, in your soul and character, in your sense of faith, hope, and love. I am trying less to convene that you need to read the bible, and more to lay out just how easy it is.
Follow the 3 (4) steps and find out for yourself.