The other day I wrote about being a highlighter kind of guy, when it came to noting and trying to remember what I read.
That set me thinking about Bible marking? Again, I think I’m a highlighter or underlining kind of guy, with the odd note in the margin. But I’m far from systematic, and my Bible reading has been far from consistent over the years, using quite a few different copies and translations. At the times I have been struggling most in my Christian life, the Bible has been especially precious to me. The underlinings, notes and highlights are evidence of that. Whoever inherits my Bible (particularly the one I read when I was struggling most) will have an interesting time working out what was going on.
So what are the benefits of highlighting your Bible? I think it’s not just for yourself, to remember the things God has been saying to you, but could be for others too. Let me explain.
A pastor-friend in the US reads through the Bible once a year, and sometimes when on a Bible binge (my words, definitely not his!) he reads through the WHOLE Bible once a month for six months. When I knew him he would underline and note as he went, and when a Bible was thoroughly marked-up he would give it away to someone, perhaps one of his kids, and start again. What a blessing to have that Bible!
I am fortunate to have my mother’s black, worn, leather-bound loose leaf Bible which she used in her quiet time and for preaching and speaking, from 1947 when she was just 23, until her death in 1988. Being loose-leaf it is full of sermon outlines and quotable quotes, as well as promises underlined and claimed (with the date) in the margin. It is very revealing – and since she (as I now understand) experienced many of the same Spiritual struggles I do, it is sometimes very helpful too.
Elizabeth (my wife) managed to rescue it for me after my Mum died, and looking at it again now, it brings everything back. She never seemed to be without it. As a boy growing up I always remember it sitting beside her bed with the little red book she used in her prayer-times (I wish I had that too!), and I can see her now sitting up in bed in the mornings, reading from it and praying.
While she did this, my father would kneel at his side of the bed and read from his completely unmarked, but also well-thumbed Bible, which I also now own. I remember asking him as a child why, when everyone around was highlighting and underlining their Bibles, he didn’t do the same. He told me it was so that when he read a passage he could read it fresh, and not come with preconceptions, or only see what God had said to him last time.
I guess that makes some sense, but it was still rather exciting to find after he died another Bible I never knew existed in a desk drawer. It is a wide margin Authorised (King James) Version, given to him on his 17th birthday in 1929, and is absolutely covered with underlining and notes in neat and tiny blue fountain pen. I have no idea how long he used this, but the Bible I always remember him having was printed sometime after 1959, so it must have been at least 30 years!
My conclusion – don’t be afraid to mark your Bible and any other book you have. And remember that as well as helping you recall what God has said and promised specifically during your lifetime, you pass a great legacy to your children (if you have them) which one day they may bless you for, as I do my parents.