My Bible is about as old as my marriage turned out to be. I was (legally) married for 14 years to the very day. (That sounds almost ‘biblical,’ if you know what I mean: ‘The length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of the 430 years to the very day, all the Lord’s divisions left Egypt’ [Genesis 12:41-42, NIV].)
My Bible has got to be either 12 or 13 years old. My then husband bought it for me as a birthday present when we were married. I had always wanted an Amplified Bible. I think I developed this desire from the days when I used to watch Joyce Meyer regularly. So on my birthday a year or two into the marriage, I was presented with an NIV Rainbow Study Bible.
‘Oh …’ I said, when the birthday present was handed to me. ‘… Thank you … I thought we talked about getting an Amplified Bible, though.’
‘Yeah, but I went to the bookstore and noticed this one. I thought it was better. It’s all color-coded and everything, so it’ll make a better study tool.’
‘Oh … okay. Thanks.’ I swallowed my disappointment. It was just a Bible, after all, and I could always get myself the Amplified version some other time. I decided to look on the bright side. It was an NIV Bible, and that’s the version I’m most comfortable with. I’ve used this version since I was 17, which is when my mother somehow got a good deal, came home with a whole stack of NIV Bibles, and gave me one. Ever since then, I abandoned the almighty King James Version, and I’ve just been hooked on the NIV, which I find so much easier to understand, but still elegantly written.
I have never gotten round to getting myself an Amplified Bible. I eventually forgot all about my wish to have one; and today, with easy access to the internet, I can look up whatever I need to in the Amplified online in a matter of seconds.
I haven’t missed not having one, frankly. Even though I’ve never paid attention to its color-coding system, my NIV Rainbow Study Bible has served me just fine. It has allowed me to remain in my comfort zone, which the NIV represents. It’s in a disgraceful state right now. Between two kids who were both intrigued by my colorful Bible during their toddler years, this Good Book has suffered: a few pages half torn out and then badly taped back in, holes in a couple of pages, some scribbles and words in my children’s toddler hand-writing, my own notes and scribbles and underlining … Its front cover got torn off, so I sent it out for re-binding, giving instructions for a similar, leather cover to be used. It used to be a sort of auburn color. By the time I got it back, it was a shadow of its former self: an unattractive hard cover in pitch black. I was aghast, but figured it was better than not having any cover at all. Then, that cover eventually got ripped off and it’s been that way for the last couple of years, which means the pages are starting to get all curled up as well. A total mess.
I never seem to remember what shape it’s in though, until I get to church – especially when I have some sort of public role to play. Last Sunday in church, I tried to straighten out the curled up pages to no avail. I wondered why I didn’t simply start using one of the new Bibles I have at home (at least in public). I probably have about 3 new Bibles lying around. I never use them, though. It’s hard for me to leave my good old Rainbow Study Bible behind. I can find anything I need to in there, and the nice print is easy on the eyes. The other Bibles that I pick up on a whim because of their attractive jackets or shapes simply can’t compete.
I really just like my old things. I like new things, too, don’t get me wrong. But there is a certain comfort I find in familiarity; in the deep, thorough knowledge of a particular thing.
Back in the day when I was searching for answers – anything at all – to help me make sense of all that had occurred in my marriage, I stumbled upon a particular woman’s story. The woman is married to a recovering sex addict who had acknowledged his addiction, sought long-term professional help for it, and was bending over backwards to get help and to try to be husband and father he needed to be. In her analysis of what it was that made her husband seek out and sleep with random and not-so-random women (or have other inappropriate interactions with them), she came to the conclusion/understanding that it all boiled down to her husband’s quest for ‘newness’ – the one thing she couldn’t give him. They’d been married for several years, so she wasn’t ‘new’ anymore, and she reasoned that, much as he wanted to be committed to her, he had this compulsion to seek newness elsewhere.
I was really struck by this analysis and I still wonder what proportion of men and women it would resonate with. I mean, we all like new things. New things are exciting: a new car, new house, new clothes, new books, new dishes, new silverware, new love … But all new things grow old.
I’m one of those people that are really okay with that, though. Because, if you think about it, ‘old’ is a kind of ‘new.’ It’s no longer exactly what it was originally. It’s changing, while remaining essentially the same. It’s comfortable. Cosy. Tested. Proven.
I’m intrigued by the notion that the need for newness can prove so powerful. I actually like the ‘oldness’ that marriage, for instance, often represents. You know: the rituals that become rituals because you’ve done them over and over – yet, with joy. Knowing what he’s going to laugh at, or say next. Knowing for sure who’s yours and whose you are. Knowing how to make your spouse’s favorite meals just right, ‘by reason of use.’ You just become an ‘old hand’ at it. (I marvel at the grace I used to have in the kitchen during my marital years. Without any exaggeration, I used to cook like an absolute maniac. All kinds of stuff to ensure there was variety and that there were pleasant surprises. This ‘anointing’ mysteriously lifted after the marriage ended. I look back and I’m just amazed as, even though I still cook, I’m no longer able to muster anywhere near that amount of energy.)
‘Old’ comes with its own set of thrills, if you think about it. Or care enough.