“Oh, yeah. Tell him I’d like to have a new copy of Watership Down. I can’t read the one I have now.”
My son, kind man that he is, wants to buy his father a gift for Christmas, even though I’ve said many times that I need nothing. The Lovely Lady knows better and sends him ideas by text—secretly, she thinks.
We were riding toward home this evening, after a trip to a neighboring town, and my brain jumped to the thought. As I usually do, I spoke without considering the consequences.
Well, I guess they will not be, strictly speaking, consequences. However, the Lovely Lady now has a new aberration to consider in her husband’s character, thanks to my premature announcement. (I’m not sure it’s well-advised to give her too many of these points of oddness to think about at one time.)
She probably didn’t expect me to see the eye-roll that preceded her next question. I suppose I didn’t really see it as much as I felt it.
What’s wrong with the copy on the bookshelf? It looks perfectly legible to me.
She knew the answer. She just wanted to hear it from me.
I fell in love with the story many years ago, back when I was young and full of dreams. I still enjoy reading through it, now that I’m old and full of dreams. The only problem is, I gave away my old, worn paperback copy back a ways.
I thought I wouldn’t need it anymore.
We had been in a favorite book shop one afternoon, looking for bargains, when I saw it. No, I saw IT.
IT was a beautiful hardback, with the dust jacket intact—paper, covered with clear plastic—and crisp, clean pages. The price, written inside the back cover in pencil was exorbitant, ten times what I would normally pay for a good hardback—fifty times what I’d pay for a decent paperback.
We couldn’t afford it.
We bought it anyway.
The truth of the matter is, I’ve never read the beautiful hardback. Never.
I never will. The book’s value is in its rarity, its exclusivity, its pristine condition.
The thing is, when I read, I live. I eat. Chocolate and grease stains attest to the fact. I drink coffee or juice—suitable evidence can be provided.
I carry my books out to the bench in the back yard and, if interrupted rigorously enough, lay them down to scratch the ears of my dogs or play a game of fetch with them.
I’ve always been told books are your friends, meaning I should handle them with kid gloves, but I don’t treat my friends that way. I live life with them.
I leave my mark on them and they leave their mark on me.
Not so with this hardback. It may be the worst fifty dollars I ever spent. I can’t read it, nor can I sell it. You don’t sell your friends (unless your name is Judas).
She understands me, the Lovely Lady. She just likes to make sure I know that, once in a while.
I think she sent a message to our son as we rode. I don’t know for sure. My mind was far away. Even farther away than Watership Down.
Have you ever wondered? Many do. I can’t understand how one wouldn’t.
Why did the Savior of the world have to come like this? Why a baby, born in a stable? Why did smelly shepherds have to come, and weird foreigners have to follow a strange star?
Why did He live, wandering the land of His birth, homeless and un-celebrated?
Why did He die a criminal’s death, hanging in shame on a crude cross of wood?
I would have had Him come as a triumphant conqueror, dressed in white and ruling from His palace, far above the smells and cries and demands of the filthy, backward people who walked the roads and worked in the marketplace.
I would have had. . .
He came to be a friend to sinners, didn’t He?
Like any friend, He would leave His mark on us.
And, we would leave our mark on Him.
No pristine first edition, He. Our very own volume, well-worn and dog-eared, to learn from firsthand.
The Word became flesh. Living with us. (John 1:14)
His life an open book, one might say.
Maybe it’s time to read the book again.
I hope no one will mind if I dog ear a page or two.
I wonder as I wander, out under the sky,
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die
For poor ornery people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander, out under the sky.
(I Wonder As I Wander ~ John Jacob Niles ~ © 1945 by G. Schirmer, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2017. All Rights Reserved.