“I don't think with this group I will need to convince anyone to use a paper Bible,” the young pastor looked around the classroom where seventy of us were squashed like sardines, and spilled out into the hallway of both back doors and lined the front under the dry white boards facing one another.
In one glance, he knew he had a Paper Bible group. The Bibles came in all sizes, narrow palm sized versions and the human infant sized variety bound up in zippered cases, some with lace.
My Bible was behind the glass of an e-reader. My beautiful light as air, thin e-reader with all manner of Bible translations, concordances, and Bible dictionaries at the swipe of one tiny finger had been a gift last Christmas from my husband and girls. And I could hold it for the whole one and a half hour class quite easily, and most importantly, with a pinch and expand, my thumb and forefinger could increase the font size to unbelievable clarity.
After class, I experienced a skirmish within. Would i give up my e-reader?
But by the next morning I knew. I knew. I was going to get a new Paper Bible. Even though I had worn out two Bibles in my lifetime, I was going to get another one and take this study in a Paper Bible.
Because I believe this . . . I had put myself under the authority of this teacher, and if I were going to get everything through him that God intended for me, I needed not to balk his instruction so early in the game. Besides, in one lesson he was proving to be a most dedicated, eloquent and disciplined teacher. He didn't ask us to do anything that he had not done ten-fold in preparation for class.
So. . .brand new, out of the box, large print, big-as-a-newborn Bible sits on my desk as I type. Study notes. Maps. A new translation I have grown fond of. The first morning, I forgot and turned to the e-reader, and then, abashed at having so easily broken my promise, I quickly turned to the Paper Bible.
For seven days, I have used that leather bound beauty, with its sheer, whispering pages and stiff gold edges. And this is what I have discovered.
Its presence forced me to work at my desk, where I found my attention held longer and I was less distracted. (I cannot check in with social media in a Paper Bible and I am far less likely to grow sleepy and close my eyes while sitting up.)
Returning to the same place of study every day, somehow hallowed the space, desk became altar, Jacob's rock of encounter.
The delicacy of the pages forced me to turn to passages carefully, almost reverently. My approach to God’s word slowed down, increased my sensitivity to His presence.
The whisper of pages comes to me like a Still Small Voice.
In class, seventy pages of Scripture turning shushed against my ear, and i remember Scripture tells us that God's voice sounds like rushing waters. He speaks, I was reminded tangibly in the wind of paper sliding against paper, He speaks to us in His Word.
I noticed, too, that as I flipped through the text, looking up verses, passages flickered past my eyes like passing terrain, subtly informing me of context of the verse for which I sought. There is something organic in a relationship with a Paper Bible. More of my senses are engaged, like the difference between looking out the window of a plane as you pass to your destination versus the experience of covering the same terrain on foot, wind in your face, measuring your size by the trees over head or the mountain in the distance, alive to the details of the journey. I head out for the Tower of Babel and pass Cain in his bloody field and Noah looking up at storm clouds rolling in. In a Paper Bible, you can be diverted to a path off the road, come upon some scenic spot you may have missed in your e-reader. You trail ink under a verse and leave footprints on the path.
I am thankful for my beautiful e-reader and I appreciate its efficiency and speed, but I have been reminded of the sweetness of taking the same journey a little slower in a Paper Bible.