When I was in school, we weren’t allowed to fold down the corners of any pages in the textbooks we were assigned or mark them up in any way.
Folding the page corners gave the book permanent creases, we were told, and made it look tattered, even abused. Since the school had to make them last, our teachers sternly warned against careless or rough treatment.
Just to be sure we complied, our names were recorded next to some identifying number for these particular books and we were warned we’d have to pay for any damage – other than “normal wear and tear” – if we defaced them. The same applied to library books.
So at the beginning of each school year, my sister and I could be found cross-legged on the family room floor, dutifully fashioning protective covers for those textbooks out of paper grocery bags.
Truthfully, I always liked getting a book that already had a little mileage on it. It told me that someone before me had found parts of it useful and suggested perhaps I would, too. At a minimum, it told me I could probably use the book without freaking out if I dropped it or spilled something on it.
These days, if I feel like dog-earing one of my books, I do it freely (I know, that’s like fingernails on a chalkboard to some – don’t judge). I fold the page corners to help me find the passages I want to return to, even if it means the book now has flaws that would disqualify it from being resold. The places I’ve marked lead me back to what strikes me as memorable.
Frankly, if the book is interesting enough for me to want to refer back to it, I’m not likely to want to part with it anyway. If I’ve borrowed someone else’s book, I’ve been known to return it and then buy my own copy just so I can crease and highlight to my heart’s content.
I feel that way about my life, too. There are events that have shaped my story, in good ways and bad, that I am well-served to remember. I return to these dates and times in my mind to help me recall the lessons in them that have made me who I am.
I like to think of it as “dog-earing” my days when, for example:
- I revisit the major milestones like graduations, marriages, childbirth.
- I reflect on the impactful times like landing my dream job, closing on my house, or welcoming my daughter home after a long absence.
- I re-experience the heartbreak of saying goodbye to my mother, watching the towers fall, or reeling from this or that betrayal.
There’s something about returning to these events after some time has passed that helps me more clearly see God’s hand in all of them and, in retrospect, to be grateful. I’ve been in relationship with Him long enough to know He can be trusted to use each of these experiences, whether joyful or crushing, as part of a greater, better plan that may or may not be for me to know now. I choose to believe anyway.
Indeed, every one of those days I’ve dog-eared has Christ’s shadow looming over it because He was and still is the largest presence there. He was always influencing, shaping, correcting, and surely crying with me. He continues to do so even now.
In the Bible, God’s people built altars to help them remember His faithfulness to them. Maybe I won’t pile up rocks in my yard, but I will practice thankfulness for every lesson learned in those important and difficult events. I’ll even celebrate the “permanent creases” they’ve given me over the years.
But I’m still going to be really careful with library books.
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- I’m Firing Olivia Pope - January 24, 2017
- I’m crossing some things off my list this year - January 11, 2017
- I learned a new word - November 30, 2016
- The best question I’m asking myself these days - July 18, 2016
- A tragic story with a tender twist - May 17, 2016
- Gosh, people are a mess - May 12, 2016
- I’ll take the red carnation, thank you – revisiting an odd tradition - May 2, 2016
- The surprising thing about “weakness” - April 20, 2016
- The holiness of a four-way stop - April 13, 2016