I see it everywhere lately. Whether on a digital reader or with a good old fashioned paperback, summer reading is in full bloom. But I learned from a good friend once that not all reading occurs on the pages of a book.
I’ve known Janice for almost 20 years. I’m not sure when we transitioned from co-workers and casual acquaintances to actual friends. It may have been when we started a list on a flip chart in her office comparing stories about the sometimes offhand comments our mothers made to us over the years. It wasn’t a contest exactly, but I believe the person with the most outrageous comments was actually declared the “winner” at some point. However it happened, Janice and I realized that our time working together had created just the right environment for a friendship to grow.
I have a tendency to tell stories to my friends and Janice was no exception. One day I included a quote from the Bible to explain part of my tale. My stories always seem to come to life in the context of a loving God. That is because when I was 19, He showed up so unexpectedly in my life that I changed directions entirely. It wasn’t like I got a halo or anything even close, it was just that I seemed to turn and head in the opposite direction of wherever I’d been going at the time. I still wonder what would have happened if I’d remained on the side of the road, my thumb sticking out, signaling to passing drivers that I wanted to catch a ride in their direction. I can only say that the change in direction has made all the difference.
Anyway, I was in the middle of telling this story and getting all excited about how God had showed up in it when Janice said something I’ve never forgotten.
“Jan,” she said, looking at me with her kind smile, “you are the only Bible I ever read.”
This caught me by surprise. Wasn’t what she was saying a little like me giving a friend a book to read over the summer after I’d been swimming with it in the ocean or dropped in it my chicken soup at dinner? The book, at best, would have been blurry and maybe even a little misshapen. What message would they read in it? What message was she reading about who God was by watching and listening to me? Oh, yikes, I thought. Lord, you must have a better plan than this!
But over time, I’ve realized that this is indeed His plan. He works and I share what I see. He loves and I try to reach out to someone else who needs a little love. He gives me hope, and I put my hand out and pull someone else up.
I’m still not sure it’s the best plan. It seems many people have read their Bible stories in those of us who still blur the words. But people are reading no matter whether I think they should or not. No matter whether I suggest they pick up a different book, they are reading those of us who say we love and know Him.
This summer I’ve decided to go and read some more books myself. And then, I’m going to ask Him to keep me close enough so that when someone “reads” me, they see the reflection of a loving Father who is desperately seeking them. The type may not be perfectly clear, but I hope it’s clear enough to read. I’m also hoping that they don’t stop at reading me; that they get to the real story at some point and find the hope that comes from the face of love, written in the book of love, with a God who cares enough to try and write the story in each of our hearts.