“The question of the day at Rev Gal Blog Pals was “What do the margins in your Bible reveal about your life with God?” “Not much,” I’d say. Maybe an underlining here or an exclamation point there or the stray question mark, but that’s all. I don’t write in my Bible; my Bible writes in me.
“By the waters of Babylon, we sat down and wept.” The words float beneath the surface of my life, waiting for my tears to stir the waters of memory. There to comfort me when a harsh world knocks at my tender heart. I hear those words and remember the waters where I have sat and wept. I remember the disappointments, the losses, the moments of deep sadness and the moments of piercing regret. That sense that time, like the water running before me, can’t be reversed. Then my mind shifts scenes. I am there by the waters of Babylon, sitting with my sisters of the exile, sharing memories of the land we have left behind as we pound our laundry against the stones.
A family crowded together around the end of a table in a homeless shelter. The father watches his daughters as their mother wipes the brow of their brother with a damp towel. He is burning up. But there’s no place for them to spend the day. The overnight shelter closes at 6 a.m. On Sundays, even the library is closed. They’ll spend their day walking the streets. “Let justice roll down like water and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream,” the prophet Amos whispers in my ear.
A dinner table conversation shifts direction. What was an amicable exchange takes on a frightening edge. People stiffen in their chairs. Positions harden. And then a guest asks a question that reframes the conversation. “How beautiful are the feet of them who preach the gospel of peace,” I say to myself as I breathe a sigh of relief.
For me the desert has been a healing place. Twice I have moved to the desert. Each time I’ve moved to the desert, I have moved from a hard place, a bad-fit kind of place. Each time I’ve found my niche. Each time I’ve thrived in the arid desert air. The words of the psalmist sing through my days, “God brought me out into an open place; she rescued me because she delighted in me.” Slowly, like the desert coming into bloom, I learn to delight in myself. And like the girl Annie Dillard describes, I point myself, aim and dive into life.
It’s a life on the margins. That’s where the Bible leads me. To the streets of Albuquerque. To a homeless shelter and to congregation of homeless and housed drawn together by the love of God. Every time I pull up to the shelter, I see stenciled on the outside wall words from the Gospel of Matthew: “…I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”
I don’t write in my Bible, but my Bible, most assuredly writes on me. When I first encountered those words from the Gospel of Matthew, I thought, “That’s someone else’s Christianity. More power to them.” Little did I know the power of scripture at work on the human heart.