“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.
When I was around age 12, the seed was planted for my affinity for the way words were put together to express an idea, to relate and communicate. I knew I wanted to work in the field of communication in some capacity. I started out writing. I began in my teen years writing for school newspapers with a couple of professional newspaper jobs in early adulthood. My life took another course, however, I still personally journaled. Young adult fiction writer Madeleine L’Engle responds when she sets the challenge “…want to write? You need to keep an honest, unpublishable diary that nobody reads, nobody but you.”
That was the impetus for my adolescent diaries, followed by the young adult ones journaled later, then more scribbling as I ripened in life. Journal writing became my warm up exercises. Not meant for anyone to read, my personal writings will go with me when I go. In the meanwhile, I figured out that by putting things down on paper, it helped me to return to my mental physiology. My scribbles are what Irish poet David Whyte calls the layers of our own history. The seeds germinated.
Along with that germination, came the genesis of this book by me plagiarizing an idea. It was an inspiration I got from a minister’s wife I befriended and who was ageless to me. When I met her, she and her husband were winding down their professional life in ministry and wanted to capstone it with 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 pastor 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 of when her father died. As part of her father’s legacy, he left his Bible (the one he carried and studied all his life) to one of her siblings. It was the family Bible, the one he preached from with all his notations inscribed inside. My friend admitted she would have liked to have had that Bible, but it went to the firstborn, a son. She decided for her children; she was going to read through four Bibles, one for each, making notes (and prayers) in the margins, with the recipient in mind. When she dies, a designated Bible will be passed on to the child whom it was dedicated. I decided to do the same: to read through four Bibles (each a different translation) with one of my children in the peripheral of my mind, 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 am going to skip political correctness in this book but suffice it to say mankind includes both genders.
Drawing from episodes of my own exodus, time traveled thus far over the last 50 plus years of my road trip, I looked through my life’s rearview mirror. The words etched on this road trip’s rearview mirror is “objects in mirror are closer than they seem”. This is not a book about my whole life just some of what God has revealed to me while reading scripture.
Each chapter of this book lines up into an anthology. I also draw inspiration and share poetry, song lyrics and quotes from others (who have seen a thing or two) and can capture a nuance from this thing we call life. Context is shared on each biblical book followed by some portion of His story that fits into the motif of my story. Scripture is to be read first for its context, then for its meaning, and finally for its significance then and now. This is micro-elements of my life from episodic memory within the sacred macro outlook of the Bible. His (Jesus) story is found throughout the Bible in prophecy, in glimpses of character traits, similar scenario’s, foreshadowing’s and parallels. It is arguably my own harmonizing of seeing Christ throughout my anthology. I find it to be a God thing that Jesus can be seen in the entire narrative yet the Biblical authors hadn’t read each other’s works when they wrote their contribution. By way of His story, personal applications create my story.
Before you ask: “so what, who cares what my applications are much less this midlife memoir?” Theologian and favorite writer Frederick Buchner, 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 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 indeed, living very much out of the mainstream of things in various locations, and my life has had very little impact on anybody much 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 it is also yours. Maybe nothing is more important than that we keep track, you and I, of these stories of who we are and where we have come from and the people we have met along the way because it is precisely through these stories in all their particularity, as I have long believed and often said, that God makes himself known to each of us 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.”
That explanation along with what Parker Palmer (Quaker, educator, and activist) says inspires me to write this (a reunion of sorts with myself) as a way to being a whole person which he says is not perfection but embracing brokenness as part of life. He wrote “I am that to which I gave short shrift 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.”
To beef up my courage to write came when I originally thought the audience would only be my children. I felt safe telling them my story through His story.
In the grand scheme of things, I found life becomes more extraordinary in its ordinary as I looked at it through the eyes of the Bible.
The Holy Book’s words are incredibly transient what with God being both immanent and transcendent simultaneously. 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 still 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 living on earth and with each other. I touch on a lot of who, what, where, when and how. The “so what” is the application. By digging deep into the Bible, reflective thinking grows out of its soils. My story has been germinating and is shaped around that.