Being someone who LOVES to read, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to hear that I have bookmarks. A LOT of bookmarks. Some are incredibly decorative, or have inspirations quotes or Bible passages on them. Some are simplistic, such as a neatly laminated bookmark that has BOOKMARK printed along the length of it in bold, large sized font. Some have tassels, some have ribbons, some have clips, some are magnetic. But the strangest thing about these bookmarks is that none of them are currently marking spots in my books!
Instead of bookmarks, I have cards, flyers, notes, fortunes, pictures, receipts, bumper stickers, leaves and church bulletins in between the pages of my books. I’ve tried using bookmarks in the past, but it never seems to work. I’ll be reading a book, take out the bookmark while reading and slide it in the back by the cover. Then when I’m done reading for a bit, I pick up one of the aforementioned items and place it neatly within to hold my place. Try as I might, my bookmarks collect dust on my bookshelf while these other items sneak between the pages of these books.
I guess I just can’t use something as a bookmark whose only purpose is to be a bookmark. I have a card from my grandmother currently marking my progression in a book for Theology of the Congregation. A fortune cookie paper holds the spot in another book, and even though I don’t need something to keep place in my kindle, there’s a Human Rights Campaign bumper sticker nestled between the protector and the screen. At times, these other items seem to hold bigger stories and wilder tales than the ones for which they are keeping place. Each item acts as a memento, a reminder of activities gone by or yet to come. These are not merely scraps or a means by which I can remember where I had left off in my reading, but something much more.
Even more, while pondering this fact, I noticed that the items in my books often corresponded to what I was reading in some way. The HRC bumper sticker in my kindle reminds me of the stories I have been reading about fights for freedom and equality. The fortune cookie in my Bible is a memento from an amazing birthday party with great friends from school. And that card from my grandmother, with her nearly illegible handwriting and comforting words? It’s held firmly in a book which is difficult to read because of its raw and gruesome truth. When the reading is too much, I can be comforted by the care and kindness my grandmother showed me in that card.
These items, which may serve temporarily serve as bookmarks, are much more than that, because they are touch stones to remember some of the important things in my life. Oftentimes after returning to Dubuque from DePere, I’ll find myself remembering the people of St. John Lutheran by using a church bulletin. In fact, if I were to write a diary or keep a journal of my life, it would undoubtedly be overflowing with these reminders of what has affected me and shaped me. Until then, my diary is split up, a memory here, a friendship there. A family member holding a place in my heart will also likely hold a place in my books as well.
Just as John’s Gospel comments that the world could not hold books listing all of which Jesus had done, nor can all my books ever hope to contain all the amazing memories I have had within my lifetime. Undoubtedly Christ’s actions are far more important, but they were done for God’s people, like me, and that makes my stories all the more amazing because of Jesus’ story.