I have this weird habit of carrying my Bible with me everywhere I go. It’s not because I am super spiritual. In fact, it is quite the opposite. When I first became a Christian, I viewed life in black and white in terms of what was right and wrong. The one thing that I knew better than anything else in those first few months was just how black my life was. I felt like my entire life was a contradiction to everything new I was reading in Scripture, and I needed some serious cleansing in every nook and cranny of life. I was also surrounded by people for that entire summer that were wholeheartedly pursuing Jesus and holiness, and I often felt like the black sheep. Literally. I figured the best way to combat that dilemma was to carry my Bible around and open it every time I thought I might be doing, thinking, or saying something that wasn’t right. It probably was a little overkill, but it sort of stuck with me.
I remember that first summer as a Christian, a group of friends took me to buy my first Bible as a Christian. It was bright orange, and I wielded it proudly. I still have that Bible. It stays in the door pocket of my car but never really comes out of there, probably because it is hideously orange. I don’t remember how long I used that Bible, but eventually I moved on to Bibles of more appropriate appearance, even though I never really lost the habit of carrying it around. I distinctly remember a season in my later college years of feeling that same stigma of needing the constant reminder of my Bible in tow to keep me in check. Even today, I still wrestle with the thoughts and burdens of who I was before Jesus because I know how much of that person is still lurking around, lingering annoyingly in my heart. Perhaps this is why I still carry my Bible, even though it’s a bit Linus of me to do so. Sometimes I remind myself of these guys…
I don’t know enough (or much of anything actually) about Judaism today and the practices they follow, but I do know about this practice of Jews, especially in Jerusalem, because people like to take pictures of them. As far as I know, the reasoning for wearing the tefillin (the little boxes on their heads) comes from Deuteronomy. At two separate places in Deuteronomy, as Moses is speaking to the Israelites, Moses reminds them of the importance of remembering and keeping God’s word.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when your rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.”
It seems that Judaism interprets literally the command to bind God’s word on their hands and as frontlets between their eyes, meanwhile today, people just walk by and take pictures of them while praying. I don’t think I will be walking around sporting tefillin anytime soon, but I sort of see my Bible-hauling as a similar practice, in theory. Whether or not we sport tefillin or lug Bibles around, I think the idea is simply having a physical reminder of what God has spoken to humanity. In all the ways that I have grown and been transformed in the last fifteen years with Jesus, there are still so many things that I easily forget on a day to day basis. There are many habits, actions, beliefs, etc. that I really no longer struggle with because God has worked them out of my life, and at the same time there are many characteristics of God that I wish I could more easily portray. I still need daily reminders that I am loved and heard and desired by a God who is patient and kind. I also still need daily reminders to BE patient and kind. Keeping God’s word physically close to me helps sometimes. The simple act of seeing my Bible when I open my bag can deflate my anger and keep me grounded. If it were not so easy to forget what God speaks over us, perhaps Moses would not have had to tell the Israelites to intentionally REMEMBER God’s word. Solomon advises the same in the book of Proverbs. These words resonate deeply with me.
“My son, do not forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commandments,
for length of days and years of life
and peace they will add to you.
Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you,
bind them around your neck;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good success
in the sight of God and man.”
The passages in Deuteronomy have been marked in my Bibles for years; these are some of the great nuggets of truth and wisdom that encourage me to keep reading through the endless genealogies and accounts of numbers at war. The urge to be intentional about keeping God’s word at the forefront of not only our thoughts but also those close and important to us is the kind of urging that comes from the gut and is somewhat painful in action. Proverbs echos the same plea….the Italians would say with forza. It’s the type of plea we make to younger children or teenagers when giving them advice about something we have royally screwed up in the past. We know we ultimately cannot stop them from still doing what will bring them pain or discomfort or trouble, but with everything inside of us, we try to communicate the necessity of making the wise decision. I don’t think that the heart of the matter is about obedience so much as it is about remaining in a protected place.
Obedience is good and right and a necessary part of walking with Jesus in this life. I think God’s heart thinks first of protecting us and loving us and being with us, before He considers the consequence of disobedience. Really, how often is the consequence of disobedience simply the fact that we have to suffer the separation from His covering at our own doing? The heart behind carrying a Bible around is that in forethought, I want no part of sin; unfortunately, some days I feel like a failure even within the hour of having spent dedicated time with God.
Why is it that I can so quickly forget the very things I desire most? What does that say about the veracity of my desires? I think is says that Satan is crafty and skilled and practiced. The reality of the evil at play against my heart makes me cling to these verses all the more. To cover empty spaces on walls and drawers and doors with Scripture and words of life. To set reminders every hour that God calls me His own. To recall that I am redeemed, restored, and renewed. To do everything that I can to bind God’s word to me so that when I forget, when I slip, or when I trip, His truth is their to catch me. I may fall, but God is a God that is ready to catch me, dust me off, and put me right back on the shelf, rather than let me shatter in pieces because of a momentary glitch.
So that I might find favor and good success in the sight of God and man, I think I will keep my Bible-hauling habit for now.