Confession: I write in books*-- do you? When a turn of phrase takes my breath away, when I love a passage or thought, I underline. I scribble in margins. Sometimes I create my own little index inside the back cover with a brief description and page #. I got this from my mom, I think, who also turns up the bottom corners to mark passages she loves (and the bottom of her books also tend to bear the telltale watermark of the bathtub, where she often reads).
Lauren was recently thrilled to find a spare afternoon and was looking for a book to read. We looked around a bit and I pulled out The Hiding Place from my shelf. "I think you'll love this." She nestled into the couch right away to dive in.
An hour or so later she called to me in the kitchen.
"Hey mom, reading the passages you underlined is so revealing. I feel like I'm peeking into your brain."
"Oh yeah? Which ones?"
"Umm...let's see. I just read the one about the train and the suitcase. All of the sudden I think I get your parenting." (We have had a lot of classic firstborn child-parent discussions about what freedoms and responsibilities she's ready for. Sometimes we agree, sometimes we don't. I won't lie--this newfound understanding was refreshing.)
I knew the one right away; I've used it in talks and lessons before:
...Seated next to Father in the train compartment, I suddenly asked, "Father, what is sexsin?"
He turned to look at me, as he always did when answering a question, but to my surprise he said nothing. At last he stood up, lifted his traveling case from the rack over our heads, and set it on the floor.
"Will you carry it off the train, Corrie?" he said.
I stood up and tugged at it. It was crammed with the watches and spare parts he had purchased that morning.
"It's too heavy," I said.
"Yes," he said. "And it would be a pretty poor father who would ask his little girl to carry such a load. It's the same way, Corrie, with knowledge. Some knowledge is too heavy for children. When you are older and stronger you can bear it. For now you must trust me to carry it for you."
And I was satisfied. More than satisfied--wonderfully at peace. There were answers to this and all my hard questions--for now I was content to leave them in my father's keeping (pp 26-27).
Maybe we transfer the suitcase earlier today than they used to in the early 20th century but I think this is a lovely analogy of one of our roles as parents: to know our children and be sensitive to what they're ready for and what they're not. It's a tough balance and I'm sure sometimes I've been too cautious and others too premature (in fact, my children will all have specific and vivid examples of this, I'm sure). But for one afternoon, thanks to a marked up paperback printed in 1971, at least one of them understood that we do it from a place of love. Hey, I'll take it. And pass along more of my marked-up books.
*Maybe some day I can move on from writing in books to writing them.