As much as I am totally a library kind of a girl, I really do prefer to own books. Mostly because I like to write in them, and the librarians take a dim view of such things. At least when the books belong to the library.
I underline and make notes in just about every book I read--from theological kinds of books to Nancy Drew--and rarely read without a pen in hand. To me, pens and books just go together. And folding down the corners of pages.
I'm not feeling very good--something I've over-mentioned on Twitter for sure. It's the first time I've been even slightly under the weather in more than a year, and somehow this cold has knocked me flat. So I got in bed early last night with a book from our library upstairs.
A while ago, Toben's mother brought me bags and bags of books--mostly seminary textbooks and commentaries she's no longer using. But tucked in between volumes on things like hermeneutics and commentaries on Deuteronomy was a stack of novels by Madeleine L'Engle.
I first read A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels in the fourth grade at Colorado Springs Christian School. And in junior high school I read a few of her other novels the summer I worked at the library on base at Menwith Hill outside of Harrogate in North Yorkshire.
All that to say that A Ring of Endless Light was in the stack of books that made it onto my library shelves. Though I read it that summer of working at the library, nothing about it was familiar to me when I opened it last night--and it stayed fresh all the way through finishing it this morning with coffee and cherry pie for breakfast.
I made it all the way to page 18 before reaching for one of the many pens that lives on my bedside table:
If thou could'st empty all thyself of self,
Like to a shell dishabited,
Then might He find thee on the ocean shelf,
And say, "This is not dead,"
And fill thee with Himself instead.
But thou art all replete with very thou
And hast such shrewd activity,
That when He comes He says, "This is enow
Unto itself--'twere better let it be,
It is so small and full, there is no room for me.
Those are words from Sir Thomas Browne, written on the loft in the house in the book where Vicky sleeps. How I long to live emptied, pouring out in order to be "filled with Himself instead." And how much too often I live "all replete" with very me, leaving little room for anything else.
And isn't that the rub? The paradox of this Christian life? That in emptiness we are most filled, and in the filling up of ourselves with self we find only void emptiness.
I also had to underline this from page 63:
To leave a friend is like death and calls for grieving.
There's poignant truth in that. Timely too as I'm still adjusting to everyday life without friends who became dear to me in the short time we lived in Arizona.
And this exchange between Vicky and her brother John and his friend Adam:
"Your pretty vulnerable, Sis."
Adam said, "But that's one of the nicest things about her. It means she's very much alive."
Which reminds me that it's okay to grieve over such things and that there's no need to hide or explain that grief. To grieve means that the thing we've lost--or the thing that has changed as a result of circumstance--mattered. That we lived in such a way that our lives grew and changed and matured.
And I underlined too many other passages to quote here.
There was only one thing already marked in pencil in the book when I began it. This line from page 61:
[T]here's a kind of vanity in thinking you can nurse the world.
And "p. 61" written on the last blank page of the book.
Make me wonder why Toben's mother marked that one line out of all the lines in the book. What she was thinking when she marked it. When she marked it. Something to ask her when I see her later this week.
And I wonder what my girls--perhaps my grandchildren someday--will think when they read my books and see all the things I've marked and written in the margins. In a way, my books are sort of like journals, glimpses into my heart, my mind, my feelings.
I have a few books that belonged to my grandmother, and how I wish she'd written in them, marked them, underlined or starred or circled the things that stood out to her.
What's something you've underlined in a book recently? What book was it from? Why did it stand out to you?