It’s been on my mind ever since. Ever since Ron Ritchie handed me his old New American Standard version of the New Testament — the one like we all had in 1970 that was all marked up with lines and colored pencils and highlighters — and asked me if my name was in it. It threw me at first because I wasn’t sure what he meant. Did he mean was my name physically in that Bible? Had he written my name in there? Had I? Since he is in that last few weeks of his life, and this particular Bible with the handmade leather cover was a sort of trophy from the Jesus Movement, had he gotten it out for nostalgia’s sake to remember those years? I was surprised he still had it. Or maybe he’s still using it. I’m pretty sure mine is in the attic somewhere.
I don’t know why, but right then I could only focus on the physical presence of that Bible and whether my name was in it. Funny, I couldn’t remember signing my name in his Bible. I know for a fact that I am in my mother’s Bible. She wrote my name all over the place when she applied some promise to me or was maybe praying for me at the time, but I doubt I was that important to make it into Ron’s Bible notes.
Maybe he was using this piece of history as some sort of yearbook of his life, and he was having friends sign it who were visiting him for probably the last time. But really, would Ron use his Bible for that? “It’s been a great life, Ron. I enjoyed having you in my New Covenant class. See you in heaven.” I doubt it. After all, he can’t take it with him. The Word in his heart he certainly can, but not the one he holds in his hand.
Now that I think about it, I realize it was pretty naive and quite arrogant of me to even entertain the thought that he was speaking about my physical name in his physical Bible.
It actually makes sense that one of Ron’s last questions to anybody would be something so simple and direct. He was always bringing things down to the basics.
And it would only seem right that after all the living, and the studying, and the teaching and preaching; after all the writing and counseling and praying; after all the college and seminary degrees, the masters and doctors of theology; after the thesis papers and the books and workbooks and questions asked and discussed; after all the walks and the talks, the songs written, the people influenced; after all of this, the only question that remains is a simple one: “Is your name in this book?”