Very Private Readings

by Gabriel Urbina


Nick, a social worker and Emma, a certified pediatric nurse like to read the Bible, as a private individual activity. Both Nick and Emma are secretive about it, because they do not want to offend anybody. They are not interested in discussing their readings with others. They only share between themselves what they have learned, and how it helps them with their lives, and their work.

Emma is my girlfriend, and she has a key to my apartment. She is also my ex-wife. We were married for a year. We were in love, and still are. Our marriage taught us we could not live together. We got divorced because both of us needed our space. Emma is a very independent woman, and I am a lone wolf. I am most certain that this boyfriend/girlfriend relationship is going to last a long time, perhaps a lifetime. As I said, we love each other, very very much.

Maybe we need more space and alone time because our jobs are very demanding. Emma is a pediatric nurse, and I'm a social worker, whose mission in life is to protect children, from the wrongdoings of adults. We are not church-going individuals, and we are not very religious. We do seek answers from the Bible, but we are not into group discussions, and Emma and I don't even discuss our readings between ourselves. Emma simply likes to know what I have been reading, and she only listens. This is a private activity, because we don't want to offend anybody. Myself, I use this Book as a self-help book, and as a vehicle to understand today's world. I'm not into analyses, comparisons of different versions of a story, or looking for the significance of obscure passages. In a way, it's a selfish activity. I'm in it for what I can get out of it.

I tend to believe that "there is nothing new under the sun," and that history repeats itself. For example, in the story about the Good Samaritan, a guy has been assaulted, and many people go by and do not help him. But a foreigner from Samaria goes out of his way to help. This still happens in our times. People do not help because they do not want to get involved. The biblical story has a happy ending, but in a contemporary version it is possible nobody would come to help. I concentrate on the Samaritan; he inspires me. I do not try to understand those who turn a blind eye. That would be a job for others.

Emma reads and rereads the parts where Jesus is healing the very ill. That is her inspiration, because she is a healer. She said she needs to do these readings when she's getting emotionally tired. She said Jesus didn't suffer from compassion fatigue; He is like a role model. She is impressed by the faith of the people seeking a cure. For her, faith is an important factor in healing, but since she cares for small children, she needs to project that faith to the children, by her actions, her demeanor, not with words.

I was coming out of the shower, when Emma came in.

"What's in the bag?", I asked her.

"Bagels and cream cheese."

"Excellent. The coffee is on. I'll be out in a moment. Let me get some clothes on."

I came out and we had breakfast together.

"Em, are you going to spend the day with me?"

"I was planning to, but in a couple of hours I'll have to go to work. I have to fill in for someone."

"OK, two hours of quality time with you. I'll take them."

"So what have you been reading, Nick?

"I'm reading about Jesus and the pig farmers. Jesus goes to a community of farmers, and encounters a demon-possessed man. He liberates the man, by allowing the demons to go into a large number of pigs. Then the pigs jump into a lake and drown. The farmers do not want Jesus around. They are afraid of him, and he is bad for business."

"So, what did you get out from this reading?"

"My contemporary version would be that Jesus finds a homeless man who is mentally ill. He has been excluded from the community of farmers. In the healer, I see empathy toward a man who cannot help himself, and the ability to stand rejection from a community that does not approve of Him. In the end, Jesus restores the outcast to his community. I think we should do more of that in our times. Inclusiveness, not exclusion. Take care of social problems. I know it may be too much to ask, but realize that the life of one person is more important than the comfort and the profits of a group of business men."

Emma said, "Wow, I have to read this story myself. I'm going to head to the hospital, I have to run a couple of errands before I get there. Can we get together tomorrow? We are both off, right?"

"Yes, and don't forget the bagels. Thanks."

"I won't."

She left not before giving me a hug and a kiss. This was always another source of inspiration for me, and it would always be. It was a Saturday, but I decided to go to the office, to do some paperwork, and to review a few case files. I drove to the office. It was a beautiful day. I felt very good.

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