By Kay Etheredge
Recently our youngest daughter mentioned in a phone conversation that she would like to find a copy of The Book of Common Prayer. Several days later I was in a thrift store and visited the book section, one of my favorite thrift store places. This particular thrift store has a section designated for old books. I lost track of time as I looked at the spines of very old books and pulled several off to examine. On this shelf I saw a small book and on the spine it said The Book of Common Prayer. It was a 1928 edition and the price tag was $2.99. I immediately put it in my basket for our daughter. There was a large label on the back of the book that said “Do Not Remove from Pew” and there was a partially worn off name of a church. The book had a certain smell…a smell that books acquire when they are visited eagerly and often through the years by hands and hearts that are hungry for something…knowledge, comfort, or the feel of the familiar.
Some of the pages’ corners were bent and the spine of the book was slightly broken. I took a photo and sent it to our daughter to show her what a special thing I had found. I began to notice as I thumbed through the pages that the book opened naturally to a certain page. The heading at the top of that page said “The Burial of a Child”. I closed the book several times and let it fall open again. Each time it opened to the same page. I started to think about how many hands may have held this book since 1928, and why the book seemed to open so easily to the same exact page. My imagination led me to think that someone lost a child and turned to this page repeatedly for comfort. And imagining that helped me to visualize how this grieving person may have justified the removal of this book from the back of a church pew…how they found familiarity in the holding of the book, open to this page, and the reading and re-reading of these words brought them great comfort. But why would reading “The Burial of a Child” bring comfort? I realized I was letting my imagination run amok and imaginations can so very easily be misleading.
The book was delivered to our daughter and we have mentioned it in conversation several times. This past week I asked her if she had noticed that the book opened naturally to a particular place. She got the book while I waited and then she said, “The Burial of a Child”? At least I hadn’t imagined that part.
Isn’t it possible that our lives, like a well- loved book, can find great comfort in the familiar? We open our lives’ books to the same heading…the same chapter…because it is what we have always done, where we have always turned. If we normally handle our problems by turning to drugs and alcohol, then the turning to something completely different has to be taught. We have to break old thought patterns and habits and discover that there are better and different ways. We have to allow the story to be re-written. I spoke with someone today who struggles with alcohol addiction. He told me how many programs he’s attended and it was a number in the twenties. He told me candidly that he struggles with the concept of faith. I said I would pray for him, and he said words that pierced my soul. He said, “This place is my last hope”.
Please join me in praying for the men here at Brother Bryan Mission. Pray that they would be able to learn new ways, to allow the new and unfamiliar to change them to their very core. That the stories of their lives, pages bent and spines broken, would begin to fall open to new chapters. Because almost every page in a book has another side.
Before the book was delivered to our daughter I opened and reopened it, intrigued by where it naturally fell. One night I simply flipped the page over and the simplicity of what I saw amazed me. At the top of the next page was Psalm 121…
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord, which maketh heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved; he that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is they keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.
The Lord shall preserve they going out and thy coming in from this time forth and even
It was the back of the page that I believe was the most loved, the most read. Just like a very old, cherished book develops an aroma, our lives can be pleasing aromas too, for there is a Master story-teller who writes and plans every facet. There is no surprise ending with Him and on most any given day we are simply in the middle of the story. He knows the ending.
We all have times in life when we feel there is little hope. Sometimes, we just need to turn the page.