Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Bible Anxiety

The following is a post that I was honored to write for Shanna Noel's blog at

I was raised in a traditional, conservative, Southern Baptist household by two parents who love the Lord and who both love books. I was raised to love the written word, to love the books that hold them, to respect and honor the men and women who had given themselves to the practice of putting pen to page. The Bible is the Word of God, and is therefore the ultimate book deserving our love, honor, and respect.

In our home, respecting a book means taking care of that book: not breaking the spine, not folding the corners down to mark our page, and ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY NO WRITING IN THE BOOK. The goal of reading a book is to ensure the book looks as pristine after you finish reading it as it did on the shelf of the bookstore. There should be zero sign that the book has been touched, opened, or manipulated. If we were required to underline or mark up a text for school, my parents would buy two copies of the book: one for me to 'ruin' and one for us to preserve on the shelves of our home. Any and all underlining must be done with a straight edge (what my Dad has always called rulers) in a blue or black ballpoint pen that is used throughout the entire book so that the book's appearance remains consistent. Notes should not be taken in the margins. They should be written in a separate notebook with a reference to the page, line, and quote being discussed. Doodling is strictly forbidden.

Some of you may find this a bit obsessive-compulsive and a bit odd, but it is what I grew up knowing. Not crunching and marking up books is how we showed our respect to the books. This was especially true of God's Word. Our family has one Bible that is the designated Family Bible where births, deaths, and baptisms are gently recorded. One year for Christmas, my parents gave my brother and me Bibles with their favorite verses carefully underlined for us to know where God had spoken to them, and this remains one of my most priceless possessions.

You may be wondering what this has to do with art journaling and using our Bibles for art and meditation. If you have seen my Instagram feed, you'll know that my first artsy page in my Bible caused me physical pain. I was nauseated, jittery, and anxious. I had goosebumps, and the hair on the back of my neck tingled. I had thought that by using one of my older Bibles, I would be ok with the art and not worry that I was defacing and messing up the Word of God. I was wrong. My goal was to not spend any money for this new-to-me art form. I would only use what I already had, and that included my Bible. I love scrapbooking. I enjoy art journaling, and the concept of combining these creative outlets with my daily Quiet Time called to me (I mean, seriously...making an inky mess and calling it worship and prayer? You had me at 'Hello").

My art journaling has developed over the last few years as a way for me to cry out to God. I play with color and scriptures and song texts when my MS-brain fog prevents me from forming coherent thoughts and making complex decisions. My art journal is a place where I call out to God and meditate on His Word without fear of messing something up. In a separate space (my art journal), I am not afraid to try new things. I do not worry about what will bleed through and ruin the page behind it. I focus on the words, the colors, the textures, and it is all good.

I admit that after my first anxiety-ridden page in my favorite large print Bible, I set that Bible aside and ordered an OFFICIAL journaling Bible from amazon. I did this not because I wanted to spend the money, but because I knew that this Bible art journaling 'thing' has me excited to study and read God's Word again. I knew that if I invested in a dedicated Bible that I gave myself permission to write in, then I could enjoy the freedom of prayer and worship in my Bible without the anxiety, and that my precious Life Application Bible could return to its honored place on my shelf. I knew that I would have a place where I can make mistakes, where I can make a mess, where I can ruin a page just by covering the back with gesso. I knew that I could be free to use whatever supplies I have, be it pen and pencil today, or watercolor and stamps tomorrow, without the fear of ruining God's Word. I admit that there are some entries I like more than others. I admit that I have made mistakes. I admit that I have ruined a page or two. But that is ok. God is happy with my work. He is happy that I am spending time with Him. He is happy that I am creating and meditating on His Word. For every verse and passage that I read and study and personalize, I am growing closer to Him and abiding in His love. And that is a good thing.

If you take nothing else away from reading this post today, I hope you know this: God loves YOU. He wants to spend time with you. He wants you to know Him. If giving yourself permission to draw in, write in, or paint in a Bible is what it takes to encourage you to spend time reading His Word and to draw closer to Him, then please do it. We are all different. We all create art differently. We all have different handwriting. We all have different supplies and talents. We all have different budgets. None of that matters. All that matters is that you are reading and praying and worshiping God. This is your relationship with Him, your learning, your creating, your time. And in the end, the only One whose approval you need is His.

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