(Photo from project by Mladen Penev.)
One of my best friends, has bought me a limited edition NIV bible for my 40th birthday. It's the biggest, most luxurious bible I now have, that is so large I need two hands to hold it.
And as it has sat on my desk, imposing, and seemingly alive, breathing under it's soft leather cover, it got me to thinking about the power of books and stories.
Books have always been a special part of my life. I remember how libraries have always seemed to be magical places, and my first library pass like a magic key.
I would spend hours browsing the stacks, taking books from all sections, and all subjects (from the adults library even though I was supposed to be using the kids library), only to have my mother laugh at me and ask how on earth could I read twenty books at a time, and to take them back.
Books were an escape for me, from the violence and destructive habitat of home.
I read the complete Famous Five from cover to cover, several times when I was around 7 years old, and immersed in a world that was brighter and happier, and where wrongs were righted.
Then I discovered the Chronicles of Narnia, and wished I could escape through the back of my wardrobe (During one particularly acute domestic altercation between my parents, I did hide in my wardrobe, wishing I could escape to Narnia).
Then I went onto The Hobbit, aged 10. I still remember the overwhelming feelings, the sheer wonderment as that book took me through a Christmas filled with the usual family strife, and into the new year and then into the world of the Lord of the Rings.
Then I moved on other series of books, wanting to explore the worlds and alternative realities created by Asimov, Bradbury, Stephen Donaldson, and in most recent years Ian M Banks, and Peter F Hamilton.
In fact to this day, I still love to find an author, who opens out stories of new worlds over several books.
In all those remembrances, I see that I was not just looking for escape but for a story, one that was bigger than the claustrophobic, violent, and anxiety producing world that bore down on me daily. A story I could escape into, inhabit, and live differently.
I wasn't wanting a story of my making, I wanted a story that I could join myself to, be part of, that was epic, that I might become part of in it's retelling.
And now as I think about it, and look at that huge new bible, there was a story looking for me.
The story of Jesus, found me, and I do get to go through the back of the wardrobe.