I grew up in a home where a Bible was never far away.
My Calvinist upbringing, although pious in some ways, thanks to liberal parents it provided a principled foundation for living a balanced life. The dichotomy of Calvinism’s conservative, prescriptive and authoritarian approach, and how my parents allowed us to think freely, only struck me later in life.
A huge blessing.
It’s similar to being bi-lingual, you get a better understanding of what’s being said, because you can interpret the different nuances and accents. That was another great thing about growing up in my house. My parents had the foresight to speak both English and Afrikaans to us at home.
All four kids had their own Bible, plus there were a few in the book-rack in the lounge, where the encyclopaedias were. (If you are under 40, check Wikipedia for what an encyclopaedia is). There was a very old one from my great-grandfather. It had a leather jacket with stitching around the edges, and the pages were yellowed and fragile. Although there was always a Bible nearby, the one I remember most was the one on my mom’s bedside table.
My mom would read to us from her Bible, while we were lying in her bed. Her Bible had lots of pen markings and notes, from the different sermons, studies and books she referenced. What was great about my mom’s reading, she read in a soothing tone with an inviting cadence. Important qualities for compelling storytelling.
One of the stories my mom told, was about dust gathering on a Bible. The crux of the message being that if you read your Bible daily, dust wouldn’t gather sitting on your bedside table. To this day, if I see a book, especially a Bible, with a layer of dust on the cover, I have to try hard not to judge the person.
What I learnt, I try to practice and teach my children.
I was taught respecting my elders didn’t have a proviso — it meant always. And being nice to people, even strangers, is a nice thing to do. I learnt telling lies, or not being honest, is the lowest-low you can go. Admitting when you are wrong with humility is a brave and courageous act. In fact, simply being mindful of being humble, automagically squashes an inflated ego — the same one that is preventing you from being a nice person. I’ve learnt people are different but the same. It’s our sameness that makes us ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’. But it’s in our diversity that our cultures, norms, thoughts and ideas intersect, and make new connections, with new possibilities.
These are a few of the principles and characteristics that come from my mom and her stories from the Bible. I’ve been fortunate to have a balanced diet of great teacher’s and great books in my life.
These two are on the top of my list.
Enjoy the Passover!