by Katherine Hauswirth
Our pastor, Tim, shared something I hadn’t heard before: all manner of people bring all manner of old Bibles to the church. Some Bibles are from nonbelievers who stumble on a Bible when cleaning out a garage or an attic. Believers who “recycle” their old Bibles at church have either moved on to a less tattered version or aged into a large-print edition. Even to many nonbelievers, throwing away a Bible just doesn’t seem right. Hence the church’s abundant and mismatched collection.
A scrap of paper fluttered out of a Bible that made its way to Pastor Tim. In faded pen and ink, someone had carefully written: “God cured my spine, Tuesday, the 23rd of May, 1865.” There’s no more to the paper than that, but this simple statement of faith moved Tim to wonder about the person who wrote it and to praise God for this message of faith. Was the believer a man or a woman? With what verse had they tucked in this meaningful note? Had the healing come in a flash or in more gradual fashion? The details are long lost, but this scrap of paper speaks volumes about praise, prayer, and hope. The message struck him so powerfully that his wife had it framed for his office, a tangible reminder of the work of God.
This story made me wonder what might be waiting in my old childhood Bible, the one I received when I was baptized at age five. I’ve since received other Bibles, but this is the only one that’s thick with memory. Mom encouraged me to store precious things between its pages.
I find a soft, crocheted cross from a long-ago Sunday school event. Several dried flowers represent the gamut of childhood milestones: funerals of my father, grandparents, and a childhood friend, but also birthday and dance corsages. Tucked in among the faded blooms I find a handsome black and white photo of Dad, who died shortly after I received the Bible.
There’s an open envelope with a solemn statement written on the flap: “I will open this on December 31, 1981” (when I was 14 years old). For several New Year’s Eves of my youth, Mom encouraged my brother, sister, and me to pen New Year’s resolutions, to be sealed into an envelope until the following year. The Bible, a place where our hopes would be surrounded by prayers, seemed the most fitting place for their wait.
The list of 10 items I penned in 1981 reminds me of how little my heart has changed. I still want to avoid hurtful words, to reach out to others. I still want to “make and keep many friends.” I still want to be “very inwardly pretty, and maybe a little outside, too.”
The list also alludes to things I have outgrown. I desperately wanted to “candy stripe” (volunteer, complete with pink-and-white-striped uniform) at the local hospital, and did so tirelessly until it was almost time for nursing school. After 11 years pursuing a passion for nursing, my life took a turn that led me away from the hospital and into the writing life, an unexpected and different way to provide healing.
Sitting down to write those resolutions more than 25 years ago, I never imagined that I would live a life beyond nursing, that I would be called to use a different set of gifts. But here I am, reading back on my “old self” and seeing that the “old parts” of my life are never really lost. All the parts of my life are intermingled with the lives of others; all are run through with a thread of deeper love.
What I find between my Bible’s pages speaks to me powerfully, as if each item absorbed some truth from the surrounding chapters and verses. I turn to a postcard my mom sent a month before my wedding. Mom shared this quotation from French Jesuit Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: “Nothing is precious except that of you which is in other people, and that part of others which is in you. Up there on high, everything is one.” These words reflect how the words and pictures from those who love me are reminders of the ties between us, how we are all one in the eyes of God.
Katherine Hauswirth lives in Connecticut.