“The sowing is behind; now is the time to reap. The run has been taken; now is the time to leap. Preparation has been made; now is the time for the venture of the work itself” is the way theologian Karl Barth describes midlife.
I have kept diaries and notebooks since I was twelve years old. Young adult fiction writer Madeleine L’Engle sets the challenge “Want to write? You need to keep an honest, unpublishable diary that nobody reads, nobody but you.”
That was the guideline I needed as I scribbled on while I was ripening in life. Journal writing became the writing warm-up exercise. Not meant for anyone to read, my recollections will go with me when I depart this earth. In the meanwhile, I figured out that by putting things down on paper, it helps me to return to a healthier mental/spiritual physiology. My notebooks are a type of reconciliation tool that helps me get to the truth of a situation. The seeds of writing germinated.
A burst of fertilization to that germination came from an idea I plagiarized. I befriended a minister’s wife who was ageless to me. When I met her, she and her husband were winding down their professional life in ministry and wanted a capstone of serving in the mission field abroad (with South Korea being the lucky choice because that is where we met). They planned to officially retire from their senior pastoral post at a large church in Little Rock, AK., after their mission tour. This delightful woman was from a family whose calling was as ministers. If memory serves me right: her father and siblings, her husband’s family, and her four children all were ministers or married to ministers. She shared a story from when her father died. As part of his legacy, he left his Bible (the one he studied and preached from during his lifetime) to one of her siblings. It was what she called the family Bible with all his notations inscribed inside. My friend confessed she would have liked to have had that Bible, but it went to the firstborn, a son. She decided, at the time that for her children; she was going to read through four Bibles, one for each, making notes in the margin, recording prayers) for the intended recipient in mind. When she dies, a designated Bible will be passed on to the child whom it was dedicated. I decided to bequest the same to my four children, reading through four Bibles (each a different translation) with them in the peripheral of my mind and heart, to later give to them.
Someone said the teachings of the Bible is to tell others what to think and believe rather than to think for self. I disagree. It’s man that gives advice; God gives guidance. The Bible is the inspired word of God given to mankind. I hope the reader will keep a Bible at hand and look up the passages cited while going through this book. This book can read beginning at any chapter. It’s not meant to bog the reader down by beginning with Genesis and finishing at Revelation to understand its theme. After all, it is what scripture says, not me, that matters.
The amount of time traveled thus far in my life’s road trip is over fifty plus years. If you think about it, it’s true what is etched on the car’s side mirror, “objects are closer than they seem.” I systematically use the same chapter order of the Bible, giving the biblical context of that chapter, clarifying along the way a few misconceptions about biblical interpretation, share some of what I learned about issues concerning God’s nature, along with antidotes from my life within my historical timeframe.
Before you ask: “so what, who cares what my applications are much less this midlife memoir?”, theologian and favorite writer Frederick Buechner, from his book Telling Secrets, explains:
“This is part of my story about what it has been like in my life to be me, and before anybody else has the chance to ask it, I will ask it myself: Who cares? What in the world could be less important than who I am and who my father and mother were, the mistakes I have made together with the occasional discoveries, the bad times and the good times, the moments of grace? If I were a public figure and my story had had some impact on the world at large, that might be some justification for telling it, but I am a private figure, living out of the mainstream of things in various locations, and my life has had little impact on anybody except for the people closest to me and the comparative few who might read this and be touched by it. But I talk about my life anyway because if on the one hand, hardly anything could be less important, on the other hand, hardly anything could be more important.
My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it anything like right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways you too can find your story by weaving it through personal applications found in Bible. Maybe nothing is more important than to keep track of these stories on who we were and now are, the people met along the way because it is precisely through these stories God makes himself known most powerfully and personally. If this is true, it means that to lose track of our stories is to be profoundly impoverished not only humanly but spiritually.”
Parker Palmer (Quaker, educator, and activist) inspires me to write when he says it is not perfection but embracing brokenness as part of life. He wrote “I am that to which I gave short shift and that to which I attended. I am my descent into darkness and my arising into the light, my betrayals and my fidelities, my failures and my successes. I am my ignorance and my insight, my doubts and my convictions, my fears, and my hopes.”
I found the courage to start writing this when I originally thought the audience would only be my children. I felt safe telling them my story through His story. Knowing my children, I doubt they will read this in any hurry (after all it’s like the prophet speaking to his own hometown, Luke 4:24 except my locale was the home and the kids have watched the messiness of my growing). They will probably read it later, when I’m gone. I would like their and my progeny to read it.
I intend to show the Holy Book’s words to be incredibly transient what with God being both immanent (God seeking fellowship with man. Simultaneously, He is transcendently thoroughgoing for each one. I have often stood in wonder with others in a worship community, knowing God is speaking through His Word to them as well as me yet making a uniquely personal, applicable interpretation concurrently for each with the same scripture.
The Bible is, and always will be, alive and organic; not dated, dying or dead. It is not ho-hum. The Holy Word is humanity’s diary telling readers how those who came before us came to terms with life through God’s guidance and with each other.