Almost every one of us owns something we truly treasure that, to anyone else, would have limited value - something we'll keep forever for very personal reasons.
It might be a wooden spoon your grandmother always used to stir up her special bread pudding. It might be a red ribbon you won in the school science fair when you were 10. It might be your great uncle's cracked shaving mug or one like it you bought at a flea market. Your treasure might even be something easily replaced, but you know a new one would never be the same. The old one is a piece of your life.
That's the way I feel about a Bible I've carried to church every Sunday for the last 18 years. John gave it to me for Christmas when our kids were small. It wasn't expensive. In fact, Bibles just like it are readily available at bookstores everywhere.
But my Bible has my favorite passages underlined and notes in the margins from sermons that particularly spoke to me. There are also dates jotted here and there with notes of what was going on in my life when I read that verse and felt comforted or blessed or guided.
As a result, that Bible is a precious record of our family life and my own spiritual journey. I've always planned to pass it down to one of my kids some day. That is, until I inadvertently left it in the ladies room at church and it disappeared ... almost two years ago.
Every Sunday since then I've rushed to the church lost and found and searched through a bin full of Bibles only to be disappointed. I've even pawed through piles of cast off sweaters, sneakers, and baby blankets in case someone returned my Bible to the wrong bin, but to no avail.
I know it wasn't stolen. I keep telling myself, "Someone grabbed it accidentally. She just hasn't realized it yet. Sooner or later she'll discover the mistake and bring it back."
Or maybe it was picked up by a visitor - maybe a snow bird took it back north so she can't return it. After all, my name was in it but not my address or phone. Of course, if she really cared, she could contact the church office. They'd be able to reach me ...
Many months went by and my Bible did not show up. I found myself actually grieving over it. For 18 years that Bible had been like a best friend. I told myself, "Maybe the person who has it really needs it. Maybe she's poor and can't afford a Bible. Maybe she's not a believer and a Bible like mine, with all those underlined verses, will help lead her to faith." Gradually I let go of the resentment ... and all hope of getting it back.
I stopped checking the lost and found. I bought a new Bible and, of course, God spoke through it just as clearly. Eventually I even topped thinking about the old one. But last Sunday, as I sat in church waiting for the service to begin, I thought of it and decided it wouldn't hurt to make one more dive into that mountain of junk in the overflow room ... and there it was!
I couldn't believe it. I opened the red leather cover with shaking hands and there was my name in my own handwriting. My eyes filled with tears as I hugged that tattered Bible to my chest. It was as if all the precious moments recorded there, and all the comfort received from that Bible over the years, were being infused into my soul all over again.
I couldn't help wondering where my Bible had been. I wanted to ask it, "Who had you? Did she read your underlined verses? Did God speak to her through you? Did I lose you for a reason?"
I could have lived without that Bible - had learned to live without it. But now I don't have to. And maybe that was the whole point: lesson learned, joy restored, life enriched. God is good, all the time!