I gave up my hard-copy Bible for the Kindle app years ago.
Before you call me a Philistine outright, let me just say that I am a huge lover of books, and I still prefer reading books on paper versus on a tablet. But the Kindle is convenient, especially for the enormous amount of books I like to read – it beats lugging them around with me everywhere I go. And when I finally found a Bible app I liked and some good commentaries and dictionaries on Kindle? Hoo boy. I was off to the races.
It was nice not having to carry the whole bulky Bible around with me everywhere. I liked having 10 billion translations at my fingertips so that I could read multiple versions of verses. Nor was I missing out on any of the practices I used with my physical Bible: I could highlight; I could mark verses for later; I could even take notes! I reverently shelved my hard-copy Bible and started carting my tablet around with me instead. I used it in my personal study. I used it all the time.
I’m fortunate that I have always attended very forward-thinking churches in this regard; my current pastor often encourages guests to “get out your Bibles…or your tablets, or phones, or whatever.” And honestly, at most church services I don’t even really need a Bible these days: the bulletin has space for sermon notes and contains all the relevant verses from the sermon. Still, the tablet is slim and easy to carry and allows me to carry God’s word all the places I want to be, so we’ve become good friends.
More importantly – and I want to be honest here – reading the Bible in this way actually saved my Bible study, for a time. I was stuck in a spiritual rut and going through a period of burnout; it was the ease of literally flicking around to a Bible chapter on the screen that kept me from shrugging off Bible study a lot of days. For some reason then the prospect of hauling out the Bible and then searching around for what I needed to study was just daunting enough that, if it had been my only option, I might not have bothered.
Then, the other day, I walked into the room where my old Bible was, still sitting proudly on the shelf, and I felt a pang. A profound wistfulness. I looked at it for a while and then wandered off. And at church that Sunday, I looked around and didn’t see any other believers with hard-copy Bibles: they were all carrying tablets or phones, or looking in the church bulletin. I felt that wistful pang again. After we came home, when I wandered back into the room and saw it again on the bookshelf, I picked it up and I carted it to my desk. I knew I’d be using it instead of the app again for the foreseeable future.
This is probably the part where I should turn into some Christian-woman version of Thoreau or William Wordsworth and preach at you about the quiet life and simple things and the evils of technology and how we need to get back to reading the Bible the way that we used to, darn it. But I don’t want to do that because I don’t think that’s true.
My journey to the Kindle and back again has taught me simply this: anything that gets you to God’s word and keeps you reading God’s word is the best thing. Period. If you absolutely hate lugging around a big ol’ Bible and you won’t even think about Bible study if it’s not on your app, then I hope they have to pry your tablet from your cold dead hands. And if you need to feel the actual book in your hands and you can’t stand reading the Bible on a screen? I don’t blame you for throwing your tablet off the window. Maybe, like me, you need both.
It’s easy to become so attached to “our” way of doing things that it’s easy to snot all over other people’s preferences. I know book-lovers who regard anything vaguely Kindle- or app-related with disdain, treating readers who use those technologies like Philistines who are turning their back on an “authentic” reading experience. I know technologically-minded folk who can’t understand why on earth anyone would insist on lugging around a heavy, cumbersome book stuffed full of notes when you could have the same thing in a much more manageable, efficient form on a tablet.
In the end, as long as we’re in the word – seeking things out, finding some way to mark what matters to us, lingering, learning, growing – it doesn’t really matter what avenue we took to get there. If you’re struggling with your study or you feel like you’re in a rut, let me suggest changing it up: try something new. Try a tablet if you’re used to your physical Bible, or your physical Bible if you’ve started to glaze over whenever you pick up your tablet or phone. Even if it’s just for a little while, sometimes changing the path we take to our destination can give us some clarity and strike a spark that has been missing.
The Bible is for all times, all seasons, all people. Let us be joyful in that.