Monday, November 15, 2010

Loosening my grip

The other day, in an effort to organize our lives, I actually began sorting books to give away.  This is a monumental task in my life, something I have always resisted as if it would do bodily harm to me to lose a single book I'd ever bought, or been given.  Even those ridiculous novels my mother foisted on me as Christmas gifts when she was just trying to fill out my quota.  And I'm telling you, since some of them are so silly I couldn't even bring myself to finish them, I'm not sure why I needed to have them on my shelves.  But I did, because I have this very strong 'need' to own books.  Particularly books I love.  If I check a book out from the library and love it, chances are, I'll put it on a list to buy before the year's over.  And if I buy a book, I somehow consider it mine.  I mean, in some strange way, that book feels incredibly personal, as if it actually belongs to me, was written primarily--only--for me.  If I'm honest, I'm always a little startled when someone mentions loving a book I've known, read and owned for a long time.  Even while I'm discussing it, I'm thinking, "But that's my book."

Selfish, huh?  And this selfishness extends to my gripping books, which line the walls in almost every room of our home.  I get all over Beve because he holds on to things, but I don't cull my books.  How fair is that?  Thus, with a heavy heart, I vowed to lose an entire bookcase this fall.  And let me tell you, it took some guts on my part.  To be candid, those books haven't quite made it to the Thrift Store yet, but the bookcase is gone, and I simply need to girth of my strong husband to lift them into my car.  The rest I will do.  I promise.

So last night, when I finished the pastoral epistles, which I've been reading lately, I turned my attention to Phillipians.  And as I began it, the thought came to me that this is the single book of the Bible that is most like how I feel about my favorite books, which I somehow consider (selfishly) mine.  It's the first book I ever memorized from start to finish, and the first of Paul's prayers that I co-opted to pray for people around me.  In so many ways, Phillippians became integrated into my life early in my Christian life so that the words in it are part of my ordinary vernacular. "It's only right for me to feel this way about you, because I have you in my heart."  I say this without always even recognizing that Paul said it first.  And, "live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ."  And, "I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings..."  Well, the letter is chock-full of the most beautiful gems that have become a part of my heart. 
And the Christ hymn.  The glorious, glorious words of chapter 2. 

Here's the amazing thing about the Word of God, both in whole and in specific.  It's both for all of us and for each of us.  It's okay for me to feel these words are for me, because they are.  And it's exactly right for me to feel they were written with me in mind, because of course they were, as all of it was. Though Paul didn't know it, the Holy Spirit did.  And He knew it was written for you.  Whatever specific pages you return to again and again, whatever verses are written on your heart, your doorpost, your mirror, your life, He intended that.  They are yours. 

Anyway, because Philippians is mine, and I'm learning to share, I've been thinking that this might be a good time to share a little about why it means so much to me.  Go through it bit by bit for the next little while. My life is somewhat out of control right now, and there's nothing like digging into His word to relax my grip on worry. So it'll be good to loosen my grip and give 'my' book to you.

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