By Kathleen Brown
I stretched to reach the box, the last item in the closet. My father died a few weeks before. I was cleaning the house where I grew up, sorting through the things he allowed to remain after my mother’s death two years earlier.
The box bore no labels, no marking of any kind. It was old and yellowed, but not worn. I lifted the dusty lid with anticipation, as though opening a long-lost gift.
Inside was a Bible. I inhaled the musty smell of old paper. The binding, cardboard embossed to look like leather, was uncracked. Pages stuck together as I ran my thumb across their red edges.
In the empty house, I wept. Although I was raised to obey the Lord, I’d never seen a Bible in that house. Yet here it was, the Word of God, stored in a closet for 50 years. At that moment I thought I’d never seen anything as sad as that boxed up, unread Bible.
Later, at home with my family, I picked up my own Bible, a white leather-bound “wedding Bible,” purchased in a used book store 30 years after my wedding day. I had come late to reading the Word. I studied it as history in high school, heard passages read at church, but was never introduced to the Bible as words written to me. To me, Kathleen, from my Father, God.
A single verse from Jeremiah changed everything. On a sticky note given to me by a friend seven years ago as I cared for a mother with Alzheimer’s and a father going blind, I read:
“ ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
Words written to me, I knew. To me, Kathleen, from my Father, God.
Could there be more? If I read His Word, could I find more? That’s when I went to the bookstore and bought the white wedding Bible. It sat in a box, binding unbroken, pages unruffled. Bibles on the shelves around it had fading notes written in the margins, sweet inscriptions. But this one had never been given or claimed. It was mine.
Like an anxious child, I took the box home and opened it. Then I opened the book and found the gift.
Relationship. The gift I found inside my first Bible was relationship. I found my Creator and Redeemer seeking me, teaching me. But more, I found my Father claiming me as His daughter, lavishing me with unconditional love. I found the model for every joy-filled human bond, the remedy and comfort for each imperfect one.
Now I have more Bibles. One, chocolate brown with pink trim, is the first I’ve dared mark in, underlining verses, making notes I pray my great-grandchildren will read. My newest Bible is smaller, with a chubby bumblebee on its chartreuse cover. It nestles easily in my briefcase among the tablets and pens I use every day.
Different wrappings, but the same gift. White or brown or embellished with a bee, the Bible gives me concrete expression of my Father’s love and an invitation from Him, a plea, for relationship.
I hold the gift in my hands each time I open a Bible. But I carry it in my heart always. In my spirit, filled with His. In my life, filled with His. I wish my parents had known the treasure they kept in the box they never opened.
The solemn black Bible I found at their house now sits in my living room. The binding is wrinkled. The pages don’t stick together anymore, and the inscription page is no longer blank. It reads:
This Bible is a gift to Kathleen from her parents. Lost for many years, it was, by the grace of the Father Who loves her immeasurably more than she can ask or imagine, found at the perfect moment to bring her riches of forgiveness and peace, the precious invitation to know and be known, love and be loved. Uniquely. Personally. By the Father of us all. Thank you, Lord.