Tearing Apart My Bible



When I was little, I would trail my mom to the fabric store nearly every month. It was middling in my list of errands: no toys, but the pattern books did provide some pre-Pinterest craft browsing. My mom would finger washable silk or ultra-suede, and I’d flip pages, trying to be patient.

Once she decided, we’d go up to the counter lugging the bolt. The clerk would lay the fabric on the wide table, and ask how much my mom wanted.

Yardage agreed upon, she’d unwind the cloth until she had the desired amount. Then she’d take her scissors and snip just the tiniest cut on the edge.

I’d hold my breath. This was my favorite part.

She’d grasp both sides of the cut and pull. Hard.

Sccchnniiiiick, the fabric would sigh, neatly ripping down its grain.

I loved the sound. And even more, I loved the boldness of it. The confidence of taking something beautiful, whole, pristine, and tearing it apart without hesitation.

The clerk would set the bolt aside and fold the purchase into a neat rectangle, ready to be made into whatever my mom’s heart desired.

Looking back, I was impressed by this. There was no making something new without tearing the old thing. Creation started with controlled destruction, every time.

I have been wrecking an old copy of my Bible.

I carved a hidey-hole in 2 Chronicles. I made a baby picture of myself pop up from a page. I ripped a few passages from Judges out, tore them into strips, braided them, and pasted them back in. I added a new cover, created a prayer labyrinth in Nehemiah with Elmer’s Glue, and cut holes in Psalm 119.

I feel nervous telling you this.

It’s the BIBLE. Am I allowed to tear it to shreds?

I would not have dared, except—except I was desperate.

For a long time, I wanted to grow closer to God. Everyone said the Bible was the best way. I believed them, I really did.

It just didn’t always work.

Sure, sometimes it helped me get closer. I’d read the Psalms, and feel my heart unfold like an old letter.

Except after a few weeks or months of regular reading my heart would fold up on itself again. It would skitter away from the Word like an insect from flame. And if I kept going, if I pushed past my heart’s resistance, I’d feel more and more anxious and afraid.

It wasn’t until last year that I got to the root of the problem. Among other things, I experienced spiritual abuse in church as a teenager. The legacy of someone abusing their authority over me is that spiritual things got associated with ugliness, shame, and pain.

The Bible is sharper than any double-edged sword. Should we not approach it with some level of caution? Should we not learn, like my daughters do, to keep knives from cutting us?

Once I realized why the Bible hurt; once I realized that I could not—at least where I am now—open it and read it like all the Christians I admired so much, I was left with an aching question.

If the Bible itself hurts to read, if I long to reach out to God through Scripture but Scripture itself hurts, what was I supposed to do?

This project is my answer to that question.

I mean the Bible no disrespect. No, on the contrary, I am tearing it apart to find it again.

Finding it means scissors, tape, and a Prang watercolor set. A craft knife, paintbrushes, honesty, and grief about how hard it is for me to read the Bible the “normal” way.

I am no longer trying to be “normal”.

I am tearing apart my Bible and asking God to remake it for me, beautiful and whole and true, and no longer a sharp blade against my throat.

I think it’s always worth looking at faith like a beloved piece of fabric. It’s meant to be used, and snagged, and mended back together. We should wrap ourselves in it, and let it get dirty, and boldly expect it will be made new and unfamiliar, over and over and over.

Sometimes faith tears. We don’t have to wring our hands or toss it in the trash when it does.

We can take both sides of the tear, rip with boldness, and trust God to sew all the pieces together into something improbably new.


Image courtesy of Heather Caliri

Heather Caliri
Heather Caliri is a writer and artist from San Diego who is happily content with being an awkward Christian. Tired of anxiety controlling your life? Try her mini-course, "Five Tiny Ideas for Managing Anxiety," for free here.
Heather Caliri
Heather Caliri

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