Thursday, February 08, 2007

All The Meaning You Have Given It

Just returned to my carrel from lunch and some time with the boys. Our townhouse isn't that far away from the Beeson Center, so all of us walk up and down the hill between the two. I was doing just, walking down the hill, past the dumpster that serves a couple of the dorms located between home and carrel.

The dumpster was full. A man who lived and worked on campus passed away last week, and the suite he lived in, which was in one of the two dorms, had been cleaned out. The man, named Sam, had been born with a rare disease that forced him to live life confined to a wheelchair and dependent on aides who would come throughout the day to help him take care of his basic needs. Fortunately, in this day and age, Sam was able to make his living with his mind. Outside of a couple of "hellos" when he'd be resting outside on a warm summer evening, I didn't know him. The word on campus, though, was that he bright, articulate, and well-read. He wrote articles for various campus publications, and was a active in helping produce Asbury's on-line course offerings. Upon his death, a number of the most prestigious faculty on campus wrote about Sam, and how much he had meant to them and the community. The school even hosted his viewing and funeral service in its chapel, and I'm told the place was packed with people who had come to celebrate his life. He was a celebrated, and treasured member of this campus community, largely because he used what he did have to the benefit and delight of others and the Lord.

Last week, at some point his suite was emptied and cleaned out. Today, the dumpster was filled with Sam's things. and the garbage men from who work for the City of Wilmore were poking through it to, I'm assuming, see if there was anything of value they could salvage. You couldn't blame them, really. I could see a printer resting on piles of personal effects... lots of books, posters, household items, and all the stuff that helps make living easier and more bearable. For some, I'm sure, these effects just by virtue of the fact that they belonged to someone they loved, were charged with emotional value. For the men who load the garbage truck, they are simply more evidence that people throw away perfectly good stuff... nothing more, and nothing less.

Why bring all of this up?

Well, one of the guys, who was balancing a box on the back lip of the truck was milling through each and every book, and upon inspection, either tossed the book back into the box or into the truck. And the thought occurred to me:

I wonder if there are any Bibles in that dumpster? Are they going to end up in the box, or the dump?

In an age where it is said that the average American will own nine different Bibles in their lifetime, great lengths are made to personalize it for us. You can buy Bibles that are geared solely to men's or women's issues. You can buy Bibles that are designed to be read in a year, or two years. You can buy Bible for people in recovery, teens, athletes, musicians, business people. You buy them chock full with maps, or "helps", big or small, leather or metal bound.... in dozens and dozens of different translations. You can even buy a Bible that lines up four, or six, or eight of those translations in front of you simultaneously so you can compare and contrast them with one another.

But in the end, a Bible only gets personalized by the person who owns it. It is the value they place on it, and the perception of that value by others, which will determine whether or not it is placed with us in our coffin, passed on to someone who will treasure it largely because they treasured us, deposited at a local second-hand bookstore (which are always filled with them), or even pitched. In the end, it won't matter how many helps or how durable or beautiful the cover is... it's worth will only be measured by the depth of investment we made in it as exhibited in our lives.

The dumpster is empty now. I have no idea what it contained, what was salvaged, or what will slowly rot in a landfill somewhere in the wilds of Kentucky. But I do know that a Bible is probably on your shelf somewhere in your house....

and it has all the meaning that you have given it.

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