I collect books with pretty spines.
The oddball in my collection – not at all pretty – is the Holy Bible.
It was given to me at my Lutheran confirmation. As the grandson of a minister, I saw this as a truly sacred event. But for the other 9th graders, it was a pain to endure, like an overplayed Weird Al Yankovic song. At the rehearsal, the chit-chatting grew so loud that Pastor Orv bellowed “If you can’t hear my questions tomorrow, know that the answers are ‘yes!’”
The whole thing felt like a sham.
But instead of rejecting religion, I doubled down, taking my soul across town to an Evangelical Free church. I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior and became a “soldier in God’s army.” Soon I was at the mall helping strangers avoid eternal damnation. Life was good.
Two years later, I flew to Boston for a summer academic program. I was a new-to-deodorant 16 year-old packing heat (my trusty Bible). But it wasn’t until the final week that I found Bo, a guitar-strumming, Division I hockey player and uber-cool Christian. He invited me to a bible study.
That evening, as we listened to verses from the book of Matthew, I felt like I was home again. As we wrapped up, the leader asked “How about you, Dave? Have you been baptized?”
“Yes. As a baby.”
“Interesting. Why do think Jesus chose to be baptized as an adult in the river Jordan?”
I mumbled something, but more questions followed. As more smiling faces turned my way, it dawned on me that this wasn’t a digression, the verses hadn’t been chosen at random, and that this bible study was more of a Dave study.
Soon I was agreeing I needed to baptized again.
“I’d love to attend your Sunday service at the Charles River. But my flight back to Minnesota is Thursday.”
“Dave, what if I told you we can take care of your flight and extended lodging?”
These were the most generous one-hour-friends I’d ever had.
But it was happening so fast.
“I’m sorry. I can’t.”
I landed in Minneapolis confused. Did baptism have an age requirement? Was my come-to-Jesus moment invalid because it wasn’t wet?
My youth pastor assured me I’d run into a fringe group overly focused on a technicality.
But if they were fringe, who were we? The line between saved souls and overcooked s’more souls was getting fuzzier by the minute.
By the following year, as I chose what to pack for college, I elected to keep my bible on the shelf.
And there it stayed for twenty-five years.
But today, even as my spiritual pendulum has swung toward atheism, my bible still comes in handy. When “liberal elitist” Facebook friends mock the Trump-thumping evangelicals, I look up at my leather talisman and think “There but by the grace of God go I…”
For if not for a Bible study, I might still be a Christian.