It’s no secret that the word of God and prayer are a personal means of grace that spill over for the good of those around us.
We read the Bible not just for ourselves, but for our families, for our friends, for our community. We know that God doesn’t transform his people into dead-ends, but into rivers of living water. Deciding on a route and digging in on that resolve has more in view than our own souls. This is especially true for dads.
And therefore, dads, as you think about your approach to Scripture, here’s one aspect you might consider: Write in your Bible.
Real, Slow Writing
“As you think about your personal Bible reading this year, here’s one new habit you might consider: Write in your Bible.”
Now I don’t mean to merely highlight and jot down some cross-references, or even scribble some observations without any readers in mind. The initiative here is to write — and to write to your children. This means to get a new Bible with margins and walk from Genesis to Revelation, sketching devotional insights and prayers for your kids, that you will then give to them one day.
It will probably take you at least ten years.
So I just lost some of you. Ten years is a long time in a world of quick content. It can be addicting, I know. The fast return of ego metrics on the simplest tweet doesn’t exactly push us to burrow down in a project that only a few will read years in the future. But if you’re still reading, this might be for you.
But what’s the point?
The Apostolic Inspiration
Peter writes as a dying man in his second letter. He knows his end is drawing near, and therefore his words seem to have an increased vigor. He starts the letter by commending God’s power and promises sufficient to provide everything we need for our relationship with him and the character it effects. And then, in verse 12, he tells us his intent.
Peter wants to remind us (2 Peter 1:12). He figures that, as long as he is alive on earth, he should “stir [us] up by way of reminder” (2 Peter 1:13). And in fact, precisely because he knows he will soon die, he says, “I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things” (2 Peter 1:15).
What is his “every effort” to be made? What is he doing in hopes of reminding the church long after he’s gone? He writes.
News Worth Reminding
We know Peter’s effort involves many things off the page as well, but certainly it includes his writing. He knows what he wants the church to know, and he puts it on paper.
And though the mass of his influence is incomparable to ours, we have children who care about what we think. Do we have anything we’d like them to recall? To know? Of course they won’t be reading it centuries from now, but there’s a good chance they will read it, and that we can work now to remind them of a few things even after we’re gone.
And undoubtedly, the main thing we want to leave them is the gospel — the glory of Jesus in the word of God.
Dream of the Impact
Speaking specifically now to the dads who are part of this “great awakening to the glory of God’s sovereign grace” — dads who might call themselves that kind of Calvinist — what better could we leave the next generation than the Bible infused with the scribbles of our affectionate prayers?
“Leave your kids a Bible infused with the scribbles of our affectionate prayers.”
Can you imagine 30 or more years from now that hundreds of Christians will have Bibles given to them from their dads — Bibles saturated with the extra ink of love from the depths of their dad’s heart? That they can open these Bibles to read Philippians 1 and see a meditation in the margins addressed to them?
What kind of impact could something like this have overall if a bunch of dads did this? Or the real question is: what kind of impact might you have on your children if you did this? Most of us are not remarkable and won’t do anything awesome. But God has made us fathers, and our calling to this role is irreplaceable. As you pray for your children, write it down for them. As you are blown away by the message of Colossians, write it down for them. As you see more of Jesus in the Psalms, write it down for them. And then one day, give it to them.
To the Practicals
If this is something you’re considering, here are a few steps to get you started.
1. Choose the Bible.
I recommend getting a new Bible without any marks. There are a couple options out there that work great for this sort of project, such as the ESV Journaling Bible or the ESV wide-margin from Cambridge.
2. Make your plan.
This is one idea, moldable from simple to complex for whatever fits you best. You might want to do only highlighting and underlining, with occasional prayers in the margins or the back. Or you might want to write a whole devotional commentary, filling up all the space you can with meditations and application. Or you might even do something only faintly related to either of these. But whichever you do, decide up front and keep it as consistent as possible.
3. Settle your details.
“Write down what God shows you. He may use your words to help someone else see the same thing years from now.”
Figure out things like highlighter colors, pen points, index, etc. For instance, you might decide to keep it to three simple colors: yellow for importance, pink for repeated content within a specific book, and sky blue for inter-textual allusions. Remember that these colors vary among brands. If possible, stick with one type like this. For pens, you might decide to use a black Micron 005 for margin notes and a blue one for underlining. This archival ink is waterproof and never fades. (And don’t forget a ruler for those underlines.)
4. Pick your time.
Think through when you are going to journal in this Bible. Maybe it will become part of your daily Bible reading. Maybe you’ll dip into it a couple times a week. Maybe you’ll fluctuate between an intensive season and taking a routine break. Don’t forget that this is a project for the long haul. There’s no need to rush it. What matters most is that through God’s word you are believing his gospel and enjoying him — that is, remembering what you want to remind your children.
FAQs: What if I have more than one child? Write to all of your children and have the Bible copied for each child (by the time you finish, it will be worth it).
What if my handwriting is terrible? Go the highlighting and underline route and capture your meditations and prayers electronically. Even if you have great penmanship, you’ll most likely want to get it transcribed electronically at some point.