We love books. But we live in a semi truck. Yes. We live there, full-time, hubby and I. It’s not one of those with a motor home setup. It has small storage spaces here and there, but we have to have clothes, food, tools, personal care supplies ,,, Not a lot of room for books. We have perhaps a dozen books, if that many, in the truck, and they fill an entire cupboard. They are reference books that only exist in print, or samples of some of the books we have written in print format.
We also have a Kindle Keyboard, a Kindle Fire, and a tablet. Among all three, we may have 2000 books. Not sure. But it’s probable that we have more than you do in your whole house.
Do you read ebooks? More and more people say they do. It’s still kind of like a novelty, reading ebooks as opposed to print books. Some get them on their phones, their tablets, or even own an ereader especially for books. Some claim they buy a lot of books there, or take advantage of the free ones that are EVERYWHERE online. You can certainly save a ton of money, in most cases, by buying ebooks versus print books.
But many people still prefer “real” books. They want to hold them in their hands, and they have bookshelves filled with them. Why not? Books are nice. Hardcover books are substantial, and last a long time. They can even become valuable. For thousands of years, people have valued physical reading material, be it clay tablets, scrolls, parchment, or paper books. They are treasures, and can be ornaments to a home. Beautiful scroll cases. Ornate bookshelves.
But what happens when you no longer have a home? You say that won’t happen? It has happened to many people, for many reasons. I’m just going to focus on just two reasons, though. I’m not necessarily talking about homelessness. That’s a different issue, for another time.
One reason for not having a home is the need to be mobile, like our current need. Our work requires constant travel. Go where a load is, pick it up, go where it needs to deliver. We have some stuff in storage, but that’s mostly more books, which are kind of becoming a burden, because storage has to be cared for and paid for.
Another reason for travel is to make personal appearances. Many sales jobs require that. Public speakers of all kinds have to do that. We are trying to segue into that, to be teachers and to promote our books by making appearances at conferences and conventions. Go where the people are, to tell them about what you want them to buy from you. But even people who do that usually have a home base — a place they keep coming back to. Normally that’s a home, with books and bookshelves.And they sell physical books at these appearances.
But there’s a third reason for constant travel. It’s called persecution. People have suffered that for thousands of years, too. Elijah in the Scriptures is an excellent example. Where did he come from? Where did he live? We have no idea. But we know of two incidences in his short career where he had to pick up and move out, fast. He predicted no rain for around three years and then God told him to run and hide. After the drought ended with that spectacular sacrifice on Carmel, he ran again. Pretty sure he didn’t take his book collection with him. Maybe, you’ll say, he didn’t have to make that second move. He just did it because he was scared. He still did it, fast, and likely didn’t take a lot of baggage.
The point is that we as believers are too rooted in our homes and our stuff. What if we had to move, suddenly? What would happen to our books? How would we study, learn, teach, and even amuse or distract ourselves and those we care about? Don’t give me the excuse that earlier believers didn’t have electronic devices. We do, but we’re relegating them to the toy department. It’s time to realize they are tools God has given us.
Apocalyptic stories drill home the mantra that we will be at a mere survival level. We will trudge, and kill the enemy, whatever it is, and trudge some more, and scrounge for food, and hide, and become hardened and tough, and nothing else will matter, until we reach that refuge, however elusive it is. One day we will get home again, and start accumulating stuff again.
But what about the people in the Scriptures who wandered in sheepskins and goatskins? What if we never have a regular home again? What will we do for books then? How will we teach our children?
I haven’t seen the movie The Book of Eli, but I understand that Eli listened to recordings for most of the movie as he traveled. That’s one way to “read,” and necessary for him. It sounds like a great idea that he had to barter for power sources to recharge his listening device. A nifty, practical concern.
Still, the movie, to me, seems to have had a rather silly point — fighting and struggling and killing and nearly dying to possess or preserve a physical book. When are we going to realize that digital books can live forever, go anywhere, come to us easily, instantly? They take up almost no physical space. They can have beautiful, color illustrations. They can have sounds, even be listened to rather than just read. These things are treasures in the aether. They can flee persecution with us, in our pocket or our backpack.
Christ said to the disciples to go to the ends of the world, sharing the Good News. But we won’t go, because we won’t leave our stuff, and some of that stuff is physical books. Print Bibles, concordances, study guides, devotionals. Homeschoolers even have tons of paper to teach their children, with the best of intentions. Maybe the disciples wouldn’t leave their stuff, either, and that’s why persecution came. When it did, they went everywhere, preaching.
Most of us still haven’t got the message that anyone can go and tell the Good News, because we’re stuck to our stuff. We can’t even answer a question out on the street without going home and looking it up in our paper Bible. What if your Bible was right with you, in your phone? What if, instead of your kid using his handheld device to play games or check Instagram, he had his Bible, his schoolbooks, wondrous, edifying pleasure reading, right there in his hands?
When there’s a fire or a tornado or some other disaster, we have to pick up and move fast. What do people grab first? Their phones. Sometimes nothing else.
When we are persecuted (and we will be) we will have to move fast and travel light. Many people already are fleeing death for their faith. What will you be able to take? Not those bookshelves of Bibles and homeschool curriculum and reference books. Probably not any of your physical books. But what if your tablet or phone is also your book shelf? What treasures can you take, and preserve, and share?
Just think about it.
Images from Pixabay.com