I am nervous about others seeing what I write in the margins of my Bible. Those notes reveal what I see as important in God’s Word. It reveals what is going on in my mind and heart as I read. If those notes are read, I am being judged whether or not I am a worthy reader of Scripture. What if I, a teacher of the Bible, come up short?
With that being said, I have been wanting for some time to share a few of the notes that Anna made in her Bible. I have written elsewhere about Anna’s reading and the Bible. You can read here, here, and here for example. Also, see Anna’s list of favorite books at the top of the blog.
Anna had been diligent and faithful in reading her Bible for some time, but in 2006, when she was seven, she began to take a more systematic approach. Timberley showed her some ways to mark her Bible as she read, following a Kay Arthur type of model for taking notes. Some of Anna’s underlinings are odd. When she was reading Matthew, for instance, she underlined Matthew 10:9, “Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts.” This verse must have stood out for some reason but she made no other note about it.
In addition to her notes, she began in September 2006 to note the date that she read each chapter of the New Testament. She had read most or all of the Old Testament at this time, but she began making these notes in the New Testament. On September 20, 2006 she began reading Matthew. She read the first two chapters that day. Chapter three on September 21. Chapter four on the 25th, and so on. She read in long stretches. For instance, on December 16 of that same year she began 1 Corinthians. She read 1 Corinthians 1-3 that day. But on the next day, she read the remaining 13 chapters of that book, all of 2 Corinthians, and Galatians 1-4. The following day she finished Galatians and read Ephesians.
As prodigious of a reader as Anna was, it is in her marginal notes that we see her heart emerge. Her brief notes reveal some of the playfulness of her young spirit, her depth of insight that was so far past her years, her sense of the dramatic, and most of all her passion and love for Christ.
Beside Matthew 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth,” she wrote, “I know that verse like my own mother.” I don’t know if she made up that expression or if she read it somewhere, but I know that she had a warm smile and was laughing on the inside as she wrote it.
She was not afraid to admit that things in the Bible puzzled her. John 6:55 reads, “For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.” She circled the last half of that verse and wrote in the margin, “Couldn’t you have explained it better?” She was not a big fan of John, by the way, because she could not take seriously a man who referred to himself repeatedly as the Beloved Disciple. How proud!
Her note on Acts 21 concerning Paul’s arrest puzzled me for a while until I realized she was reading the book of Acts as a drama. She wrote at the top of the page “Don don don da,” and drew arrow to the section title, “Paul Arrested.” What in the world was that, I thought. Then I remembered Sam and Anna’s trademark cry when something dramatic was taking place. They would shout out the opening notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. She was writing those four notes down as a note to herself, “Don don don da.”
Her love for Christ comes out in a marginal note she made in John 19, as the story of the crucifixion is told. There are no words there, but a simple drawing of a face with tears streaming down.
The notes I most enjoy reading, however, are those she made at the end of each of Paul’s letters. She gave her brief response to Paul, as if Paul had written the letter directly to her. It is in this aspect of her reading that we can learn from her, for indeed, those letters are written for us and to us.
After 1 Corinthians 16:24, “My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.” Anna wrote, “Thank you, Paul. It gives me hope.”
Following 2 Corinthians 13:14, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Anna wrote simply, “Sweet. Thanks.” Again her note at the end of the letter to the Galatians is simply “Thanks.”
But the note at the end of the letter to the Ephesians grabs me, for it is here we can see Anna’s heart for God. Paul closes his letter, “Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.” Anna wrote, “I do want to love him.” This note reminds me of the time that Timberley went in to tuck Anna into bed. Anna was uncharacteristically lying on her bed staring at the ceiling. She was not reading as she normally did. Timberley asked her if everything was okay. Anna, continuing to look at the ceiling, said, “Oh Mommy. I just love Jesus so much.”
Anna, at seven, understood the Bible in ways that I am still struggling to understand. She read it as God’s word for her. She read Paul as if all of his letters were really entitled, “Paul’s Epistle to Anna.” She read the Gospels as true stories and wept at the crucifixion. She admitted when things were difficult to understand, yet she still responded in faith to God’s word and wanted to love her Savior more and more as she read.
She wrote in her Bible that she never finished the book of Revelation. On the title page beginning the New Testament she wrote an explanation, “Jesus’ life.” And then below that, “Revelation was so heavenly. I had to stop reading it!”
But alas, although her reading was cut short, her living of the reality expressed in the book of Revelation will continue forever!