My first recollection of the Bible goes back to my early Sunday School days in the Episcopal church that my parents attended. The Sunday School room had a large sand table, like a sandbox on legs. After hearing Bible stories read to us, we were led to the sand table, where we created oases, formed dunes, and peopled them with cardboard depictions of the Bible characters in the stories. What I learned of these Bible stories in that Sunday School provided a foundation on which to continue building, and I recall those days with fondness.
Some time later, a friend gave me a Bible (she already had one) that had been awarded to her for excellent Sunday School attendance in the Congregational Sunday School. I liked it because all of Jesus’ words were printed in red ink. In public school my acquaintance with the Bible was reinforced through opening exercises at the start of each day, comprised of citations from the Bible, chosen and read by students, and the repetition of the Lord’s Prayer.
When a group of Christian Scientists began holding public services in our town, my mother decided to return to the denomination of her youth, Christian Science, and enrolled me in the Sunday School, where my familiarity with the Bible expanded in a new context. Now I was learning that I had the same access to God as the Bible characters had, that His presence in my life could result in guidance and healing, as it had for those luminaries in biblical days.
I recall the comfort I received when as a 16-year-old I traveled by bus to attend a dance at a private school with a date I had yet to meet. I was apprehensive and frankly dismayed about this plan executed between my mother and a relative, whose friend’s son needed a date for the occasion. My mother knew through her relative that I would be well chaperoned by his parents. His family met me at the bus terminal and escorted me to my hotel room. I felt desolate and disagreeable, and it suddenly occurred to me that there would be a Bible in the bedside table drawer, as the Gideons’ mission was to place one in the rooms of each lodging establishment. I eagerly opened the drawer, and, sure enough, there it was. A feeling of warmth, home, and familiarity washed over me as I drew it out. I turned to the book of Psalms, knowing I was sure to find comfort and assurance in its pages.
Psalm 18 says, “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.” Further on in that chapter, I read, “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.” I immediately felt comforted. Fortified with what I had read, I enjoyed the weekend despite my initial resistance.
I consider these early encounters with the Bible as important waymarks in my progress spiritward. Today I look forward to reading and studying it daily, in consonance with the Christian Science textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” by Mary Baker Eddy. That book contains this tenet: “As adherents of Truth, we take the inspired Word of the Bible as our sufficient guide to eternal Life” (p. 497). I find the Bible stories revealing themselves in new and inspiring ways according to my need of the moment, and I am grateful to those who, over the years, have respected and promoted the Bible’s messages.
The 23rd Psalm is, of course, a familiar favorite. Praying one night for freedom from resentment, I found the message I needed in that psalm: “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.” The enemy I had been wrestling with was resentment, sometimes referred to as frozen hate. Right there where that “enemy” seemed to be, I could instead partake of the table before me that the Lord had prepared, a table that I envisioned as laden with His qualities of mercy, justice, lovingkindness, peace, generosity of spirit. I prayed deeply to feel the cleansing effect of this insight. The resentment faded, and I felt washed clean of the “frozen hate.”
Whatever our need might be, and wherever in the world we might be, the Bible offers within its pages comfort, hope, and healing.
National Bible Week is being celebrated from Nov. 20-27.
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