Let's play the old "desert island” game. You know the one I mean, where you're asked, "If you were stranded on a desert island …” (It should probably be "deserted” island, rather than just "desert” island, but that's the way we always said it.) Anyway, as part of the game you have to answer "what person would you want to be stuck with” and "what book would you choose to have with you?”
In order to make it more revealing and more thought-provoking we'll put in some caveats that eliminate the obvious. For instance, just about everybody's going to declare that the book they'd choose to have with them is the Bible, and on that one I'm in full agreement. A vast majority of folks would also list Jesus as the other Person they'd want on that island. And again, I'm right there with them.
But if you had to go with a person and a book other than those mentioned above, whom and what would you choose? To broaden the scope, let's also add that it can be anybody from the past or present, but it can't be anybody in your family, and that includes your precious grandchildren. (Drat!)
I'll go first. Admittedly, I'm torn between two people – Old Testament Joseph and Bob Hope. It's no wonder I'm having a hard time making up my mind. After all, can you imagine the stories they both could tell? And talk about name-dropping! Bob would probably have better jokes, which is definitely a big plus with me, but then Joseph has all that historical significance going for him which sort of tips the scale in his favor, so in the end I guess I'd have to go with him.
As for the book, I don't even have to give that one a second thought. It's my Baptist Hymnal, hands down! There are over six hundred songs in that baby – at least in the version I'm most likely to end up with, should I suddenly be blown sky-high and land remarkably intact with a book in my hand on a desert island. Do I know every single one of those hymns? No. (I mean honestly. Does anybody really know "Free from the Law, O Happy Condition”?) Nevertheless, aside from a few obscure titles there's hardly a page I can turn to, that I don't recognize the song and immediately start singing it.
Oh sure, I know what you're thinking. With all the wonderful books that have been written over the centuries (Amazon carries a few million of them as we speak) why choose a dusty old songbook? Well for me, it's about what those songs represent. Yes they're all about worship and praise, and faith and hope and affirmation, with a goodly amount of sound Biblical doctrine mixed in. But more than lifting my soul on a spiritual level, that collection of beautiful melodies and poetic lyrics is as much a part of who I am as my overbite and my Texas twang. As far back as I can remember I've been singing (make that harmonizing to) those beloved old tunes – viewing them first as a tiny child, when I was barely eye level to the book in my mother's hand, and gradually growing tall enough to hold my half of the hymnal myself. In my hometown church and in my grandmother's church too, there were never enough hymnals for each person to have his own, and that's exactly how it should be. After all the sweetest part about singing a hymn is sharing the open book with someone you love.
Most churches nowadays have just about abandoned the use of hymnals altogether, opting instead to blast the billboard-sized words onto a mammoth screen. To me that's a real shame, for in all that multi-media technology it seems to me we've lost something special – the warmth of human connection.
Next you're probably going to want me to tell which hymn I love best but the truth is, I really don't know. Fortunately for me, that isn't one of the questions in the "desert island” game we're playing.
Speaking of which, I can't think of anything nicer than sitting on the sand under a palm tree, listening to tales of Joseph's life. (Of course I'd also like to bring along my husband and our kids and grandkids too – and even Bob Hope, if that's okay.) We'll laugh and play games and roast marshmallows – and long about sunset we'll hold that Baptist Hymnal between us as we sing a bunch of those beloved old songs together. Who knows? We might even tackle "Free from the Law, O Happy Condition.”