I love reading used books that have been marked up by thoughtful readers. It is almost like having a built-in book club. I often wonder what the previous reader was like. I ask questions like: Why were they reading this particular book? What were they going through at the time? Did they know that someone else would read it one day?
Like many of the former owners of my own books, I too enjoy marking books as I read, but I am typically conscious that others will read my books at some point. This is especially true of the many Bibles that I own. When I read, I mark my Bibles. There are five Bibles in particular that I read from and mark up frequently. Why five Bibles? Because I have five children that I intend to give these Bibles to one day.
For the last few years, I have made an effort to cycle through these five Bibles for preaching and personal study. Two of the Bibles have extensively marked up New Testaments. The other three are getting there. Occasionally, I will date the study or the prayer of the text. I do this because I also use a prayer journal for my personal study.
What I want to teach my children
I want my children to read God's Word, cherish it, pray through it, and grow in it as I have for the past 18 years of my new life in Christ. As they read the words of their earthly father next to the words of the Heavenly Father, I want them to see my struggle, my pain, my wrestling, my fear, my doubt, my sorrow, and my joy. I want them to see how I have failed and how I have prevailed during different seasons of my walk with Christ. And above all, I want them to see how important the book was to their daddy.
One day, if God wills, I will live to see the day when I give each of my children a Bible that has consistently proven true and sufficient for their father. They will read the words of Life that gave me life. They will see a pastor who agonized over the church while reading through Jeremiah. They will see a father who felt inadequate as a parent as he prayed through Ephesians 5. They will see a husband who thanked God for the wife of his youth as he studied Song of Solomon and Proverbs. They will see a man who was saved by the grace of Christ while studying Romans. They will know that daddy did not just read that big, leather-bound book behind a pulpit, but that he needed that book every day of his life. They will know how much I longed for them to be men and women of the book!
I mark up and make notes in these five Bibles as an enduring testimony to the sufficiency of God's Word for my children when I am gone from this earth. I have no way of anticipating the questions that my children might have for me one day when I am gone from this earth. But I hope that they will find their hope where their father found his hope—that the Word of Christ might dwell in them richly; that God's Word would be a lamp unto their feet and a light unto their path; that whatever mistakes and failures I made as a parent will be outshone by the grace and mercy of Christ that covers even me. The resources that they will need to overcome my deficiencies as a father will only be found in the unfailing Word of the true Father.
What matters most
My notes are like signs along a path that tell other travelers where to find food for their hunger and shelter from the storm. My prayer is that my notes will tell my children, "I have tasted of the water in the stream, and it is cool and refreshing. I have eaten the bread, and it is nourishing to the soul. I have taken refuge in the tree, and the branches are strong. This is a safe place, my child. Linger here. Take up and read. Pray with daddy. Do not be afraid. God the Father delights to give you the Kingdom. He is worthy of your trust."
I realize that I might never write the books that I aspire to write, speak on the platforms that I often look upon from the audience, or fulfill the dreams that I have entertained for decades, but maybe God in his mercy will see fit to use those simple notes in those five Bibles to inspire, instruct, and equip my children to live godly lives of faith, hope, and love for Christ and others. As a parent, I can think of no better legacy to leave a child than a faithful glimpse into the daily nourishment and strength that is afforded to them in God’s Word.
Maybe you will choose to start marking your Bibles and making notes for your children to read in the future, or maybe you will demonstrate faithfulness in another way. Whatever God calls you to do, make it a priority for the sake of His glory and the good of your children. Do not despise the small, seemingly insignificant influence of everyday faithfulness to Jesus in the presence of your children. Let them see you reading your Bible. Let them see you praying. Let them hear you singing praise to God. Let them hear you confess your sin and embrace the assurance of pardon that you possess in Christ alone.
May God grant us to see the importance of preparing our children to be men and women of the book. May he strengthen us to point them to Jesus. May we work, by God’s grace, to leave a legacy of faithfulness for the ones God gave us as our children, for the ones who see us and know us best. And may he grant in due time for those little ones to walk in the footsteps of their parent’s faith.