My Bible is Ruined but Nobody Wants to Hear Me Whine About It

coffee damaged Bible

I bet the Ninevites brought drinks to church, too. It would be just like them.

See this? Do you SEE THIS?

Few things strike dismay and disgust more viciously in the heart of a bibliophile than the sight of a water-damaged book. The original paper texture is lost. Your book will never close satisfyingly again. The pages make that unnerving tissue-paper sound when you turn them. In extreme cases the ink will run and turn sentences illegible and information irretrievable. If it’s a “classic” book in any sense, any hope you might’ve had of reselling it at collectors’ prices in the future are dashed.

The worst part of this incident is, this wasn’t even my coffee. In an auditorium with stadium seating and no carpeting under the seats, someone else’s morning java escaped them, flowed down to our row, and soaked the back of the laminated folder I’d left on the floor. The folder itself was fine but secretly had coffee adhering to it when I picked it up and set it on my open Bible so I could remove something from it. When I tried to move the folder, then I spotted the coffee, the runoff on the floor, and the damage done.

If you’re like me, and I know I am, this sort of accident spurs a vindictive little voice in the back of your head that wants everyone to know something inconvenient has happened and someone better do some mollifying or else it won’t shut up. But who was I supposed to complain to?

Despite my petty annoyance, I wasn’t about to interrupt a pretty convicting sermon on Jonah and the sinners of Nineveh. If I would only bide my time until after the service, my venting options were plentiful. But to whom should I be griping?

To the guilty party? Like I said, I didn’t want to cause a scene at that exact moment. I couldn’t be sure how many rows back the source was, and now wasn’t the time to canvass the area for suspects. Instead I spent the time propping the pages up and apart, using past church bulletins as buffers, and hoping everything would air-dry. Fun trivia: Bible pages are so thin, they dry in minutes. Now I know.

To the church? Should I act as if this were their fault and our volunteer ushers should be expected to bar entrance to anyone carrying a loaded drink? Hardly. I fully support our stance on not being exclusionary, over any stuff great or small. They have enough work on their hands.

On Facebook? I see other church members there more than anywhere else, but they’ve probably blocked me because I only recently realized my Words With Friends notices were out of control for a while. Nobody cares about those, especially not me, but no one told me they were turned on. I’m betting I burned lots of bridges without even realizing it. Thanks heaps, stupid WWF phone app.

On Twitter? Where almost no one will pay attention except those who are always up for a rousing anti-church anecdote. Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope. Not my intent or desire at all.

To my wife? She’ll sympathize, but she can’t really do anything about it and is highly unlikely to declared a vendetta in my name. But at least I can trust her not to bring a drink to church.

To our dog? Or maybe a stuffed animal? Or some other people-like thing that I can pretend is a confidant? Tempting but dissatisfying.

To the Bible publisher? Were they negligent in not printing “DO NOT EXPOSE BIBLE TO LIQUIDS” on the back cover or the original wrapper? Never be too hasty to take the frivolous-lawsuit option off the table.

To Starbucks, McDonald’s, or our local gas stations? How dare they allow careless drinkers to leave their premises without consuming or disposing of their hazardous chemicals first. Wouldn’t it be decent of them to police their customers for my benefit?

To our nation’s comedians, pundits, or other talking heads? Why has no one in the media stepped forward to shame coffee drinkers preemptively into keeping their shoddy containers out of public venues where they don’t belong? Maybe it’s because the media is in on this travesty. They’re all coffee achievers and they’re all against me.

To the inventor of the disposable coffee cup? Y’know why no one ever spills champagne at church? Because no one sells it in flimsy, easily transportable cups. The coffee cup inventor has knowingly enabled the Three-Stooges-ification of an entire nation.

To God? Of course not. He’ll listen patiently and then remind me of the thousands of other matters in this broken world far more pressing than one damaged Good Book. He’ll remind me that the Word has survived far worse, that there are plenty of replacement copies out there if it bothers me that much, that my own church gives them out for free, that I already have another perfectly usable Bible at home, and maybe this incident is all too symbolic of the ultimately inconsequential distractions that we allow to separate us from Him.

God can be aggravating and convicting and insufferably right that way.

Just to rub it in, He reminds me of something I saw on TV last week, in which a murderer confessed to a close friend of one of her victims, and — against all ordinary, worldly TV standards — that friend forgave the murderer.

He also reminded me of the scene in Philomena where forgiveness trumped outrage and won the movie.

In that same spirit, and on a much more trivial level, I expect I’ll forgive whoever turned the Book of Jonah permanently bumpy and crinkly and prematurely browned…even though I’m fairly certain I saw the guilty party sprinting away as soon as the service ended, probably to avoid eye contact and accountability. Or maybe they were bolting to the nearest restaurant for a refill and another chance to damage someone else’s goods.

…and then God pings me in the back of the head with a brief signal about how getting judgmental and condescending won’t score me any points, either.

It’s like God doesn’t even want me to grow up to be even more whiny and nitpicky than the cast of Seinfeld. If I don’t, how am I supposed to survive on the internet?

* * * * *

If you made it this far, you’ll be relieved to know that yes, hours later, I’m doing much better, back in the correct head space, and revisiting the sermon online to catch what I missed this morning during my carefully contained but nonetheless unbecoming silent tantrum. Most of the preceding was written during my study hour after church to get it out of my system. I’ve plenty of Scripture verses on forgiveness at my fingertips and a new reminder to myself as to where my focus should be.

One bright side to this: now Jonah is permanently bookmarked and accessible in a single try anytime I want. I could turn this into a cool party trick if no one looks closely.

11 responses

  1. That is honestly hilarious. (Woops, I mean how tragic!) Well, what I really mean is I had to laugh to keep from crying.
    I hope this garners you another a Freshly Pressed. 🙂


  2. Ohhh no. This reminds me of the time I accidentally squashed a banana on a borrowed book. Although the book is probably much less important than your book since your book is your Bible.

    speaking of books…ever heard of I’ve been using it off & on for months to get cheap books & I just got an in-great-looking condition Harry Potter book. I never read the series don’t yell at me! Supposedly you won’t receive books with water damage but I bet some ppl try to swap those.


    • I’ve frequently used books to swat insects here and there, and there’s an absolutely horrible incident about a mouse that I may tell someday, or possibly suppress forever. I do still shoulder some guilt from a time when a friend in Texas lent me an expensive hardcover comic strip collection and a few pages accidentally got bent while it was in my possession. We’ve never spoken since. 😦

      I’ve never heard of that site. It sounds like a cool concept in theory, but I could easily imagine people taking advantage and unloading books they’ve basically trashed onto other people. I would hope not, of course!


      • This is probably a really annoying thing for me to say, and I get how frustrating and offensive it is when somebody ruins your stuff & it’s important to you, but I can’t imagine breaking off a friendship over that. I lent a friend one of my new walking dead comics in plastic and when her husband went to grab it she warned “BE CAREFUL she’ll kill you” and I said “No I won’t!”. Some of my stuff IS important to me of course but not more important than people & friends unless that person that ruins it is always doing stuff like that and super inconsiderate and I have a tough time believe you’re like that. I replaced the squashed banana book and the person appeared okay with that. I guess an expensive comic strip collection is like damaging someone’s show car or something…so I’m trying to look at it that way but it still sucks. I’d probably feel guilty too but you shouldn’t at this point right?

        I do get very upset when I never get books or other items back from people. I broke off a longtime friendship just last summer with a very toxic person. It was a long time coming I just didn’t have the guts to do it. She has a lot of my stuff she should’ve returned years ago. She’d make excuses like “it’s high up on a shelf in the closet, I’d have to get a chair, do you really want me to do that?” Um yeah??

        Whoa take a breath. Thanks for the therapy session.

        So far I’ve gotten all my books in nice condition and one pretty good condition. I clean them with lysol wipes like a weirdo when I get them even if they’re paperback books. You could always try it. You sign up free and then list books you don’t want by the isbn #. Eventually somebody will request it. You accept & then wrap the book in printer paper and print the label and ship media mail. When the book is received you are credited and then you can use the credit to request a book and that book owner pays the shipping. It’s around $2-$3 & change per book but I often slap forever stamps on them and pay a little at the counter. Check it out!


        • I may have to keep that site in mind if my own reading pile would ever just go down and stay down. Thanks for the tip!

          I’m glad the surprise therapy worked? I think? I tried to pack too much story into a single sentence, but the slightly longer version is that, when I said “friend” in that sentence, I meant “someone I’d exchanged words with back and forth online several times, but sometimes not always very happy words.” The lending of his book to me was, in my mind, a sort of olive branch and a sign that our past kerfuffles could be put behind us.

          I’m not wracked with guilt, mind you, but I respected him and his accomplishments enough that I regret we’ve never exchanged any more dialogue since then.

          That’s what I meant by “friend” in that case. My fault for oversimplifying. 🙂


          • Oh now that’s okay, I probably shouldn’t have assumed it was a good friend.
            Yeah the free therapy was effective=)

            I grab library books for $1 or less at the library sales when I can now to put on my “bookshelf” on paperbackswap for swapping. I’m going to try to stock up at garage sales this summer and see if I can rack up some credits. Lemme know if you ever try it out!


  3. What a fitting feature that the java was poured out on Jonah. Just as Jonah resents God’s forgiveness of repentant Ninevites, you are left with no one to blame save God who is busy writing His Word not only in fragile ancient texts but in our hearts as well.

    Beautiful reflection!


    • Thanks, Tony. You perfectly summed up how it all hit me, once I’d had an hour to cool down and think a little more deeply on what He was trying to show me — a much-needed personal lesson that spoke more to me that just “There’s no use crying over spilled coffee.”


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