Ministers tend to have odd habits.
One of mine pokes its head up every time I set foot in a major bookstore. Regardless of my purpose for entering the establishment, whether it be the need for a new cookbook or a fluff-filled sci-fi paperback, I inevitably end up staring at the shelves upon shelves of religious fare. The racks of Bibles are of particular interest to me – in part because of my turbulent relationship with the Book, but mostly because of the various and sometimes sundry ways that the Book is marketed to a wide array of readers.
There is the “Duct Tape Bible” – an edgy-looking tome presumably intended for teenagers and some young adults, “The Green Bible” – for burgeoning environmentalists,”The Life Application Study Bible” – for those who want to bring the Bible into conversation with their day-to-day living, “The Extreme Faith Youth Bible” – for young people who need scripture that goes beyond the normal, boring faith of their parents, “The Apologetics Study Bible” – for Christians looking to defend the reasonableness of their faith, “The Oxford Annotated Study Bible” – for the more academic of believers, “The Good News Bible” – for those who didn’t enjoy reading the Bad News Bible… the list goes on and on and on. And then, of course, there are dozens of varieties of “The Holy Bible” to choose from.
This bizarre (and VERY abbreviated) list brings me back to the habit I came close to describing: I am very nearly obsessed with watching others select Bibles from the shelf.
Some walk up knowing exactly what they are looking for. They scan the shelves, irritated by the various other Bibles present – and when they find the “right” one, they snatch it and leave with satisfied, victorious expressions on their faces. Others pace in front of the shelves, obviously overwhelmed by the sheer volume of options at their fingertips. Still others walk up, see the plethora of Bibles and stiffen as though they have abruptly encountered a brick wall – these folks usually leave the section empty-handed with a slightly glazed expression. And every once in while – very, very rarely – someone peruses the shelves with wonder, his or her face backlit with the whimsical joy of discovery and love for the written Word.
But, more often than not, the individuals I’ve watched don’t come looking for a new version, a new perspective, a new twist…
Instead, they come looking for “THE RIGHT” version.
During one of my people/Bible watching sessions, I gave in to the temptation to help someone find what she was looking for. When I asked her which version of the Bible she was trying to find, she snorted at me with contempt and disbelief: “I’m looking for the HOLY Bible.” She then snatched a slimline leatherbound copy of the KJV off the bookshelf and stomped away.
I’m still trying to figure out which Bibles are holy – and which ones are not.
And I still watch people select scripture from the stacks.
And while I don’t know the answer to the “un-holy Bible” question, there is one thing I do know:
The holiest of those people-watching moments has never depended upon a particular translation, version, endorsement or binding.
Instead, the most sacred of those moments has invariably come in faces awash with wonder, resplendent with joy — the faces of people thrilled to discover that there is more than one way to know God, more than one way to interpret the Word, and more than one way to share that word with others.
That love. That joy. That energy…
That’s what keeping something holy is all about.
And in that regard, they are all holy. Even if “holy” isn’t printed on the spine.