How to Fall in Love… One Book at a Time
Gearing up for the webinar this Thursday (1:00pm EDT) “Top Ten (or so) Picks for Your Summer Reading: The Best Books for Pastors, Parents and Youth Workers” with my good friend Byron Borger, I was reminded of something I had written a few years ago about how I fell in love with reading. Enjoy!
In high school I read a novel to impress a girl. It worked, I think. We’ve been married for almost twelve years. The novel was A Time to Kill by John Grisham. I was never much of a reader growing up, but then I was given a new motivation: a beautiful girl mentioned that A Time to Kill was one of her favorite books. What was I to do? Rent the movie? That’s not a bad idea, but I didn’t want to blow this one. So I began to read.
Here’s what happened: the girl and I began dating, yada, yada, and I fell in love with reading! From the last page of A Time To Kill my senior year of high school until now, I have been a reader. All I needed was a book that I liked, that kept my interest, and that was meaningful. I didn’t know books like that existed! Or, just maybe, could it be that my new found love had more to do with, well, my new found love?
It’s no secret; reading has taken a hit in our culture of late. Many studies have shown that fewer and fewer people are reading. Young people, especially, are reading less and less each year. I can’t guarantee a spouse for every reader, but I can offer a few thoughts on what I’ve learned about reading over the years:
Reading takes time, patience, and discipline. Perhaps the biggest excuse for not reading is that people think they are not good readers. For many, reading is difficult, slow and tiring. It still is for me. But here’s what I’ve learned: the more I read the easier it becomes. Like anything that requires training to do well (think sports, art, writing), your reading ability gets better over time. You need to practice.
Reading requires sustained motivation. Not to take this analogy too far, but after my honeymoon period of reading, I needed a new reason to continue. The words of Jesus came to mind: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Reading is one way to love God with our minds. There are other ways to love God with the minds we’ve been given, for sure, but there is something about reading that stretches our thinking. Or better, it gives our brain (a muscle, you know) a work out! Reading can be an act of worship and love toward God. Is there a higher motivation?
Reading slows us down, draws us near to God and energizes our service toward others. Recently I heard a challenging sermon about the importance of drawing near to God. The pastor explained that when we draw near to God in prayer and study, we are brought into the mission of God. We begin to see the world as God sees it and respond, through the power of the Spirit, in the way God responds to the needs of the world. Reading often does that for me. With a book in hand, alone at a desk or library or coffee shop, I’m forced to think more deeply about an aspect of God’s world. As I draw closer, I’m reminded of the role I have to play in His-story, as a conduit of God’s love. Watching movies, hearing lectures or engaging in deep conversations are helpful too, but there is something about reading a good book, or meditating on a Biblical verse that moves me toward action. Reading requires focus. When I’m focused, I’m more aware of the needs around me and more likely to respond.
As you know, our faith is based, to a large extent, on the written word. Discipleship requires reading. And reading, I believe, brings us closer to the word made flesh. It’s not easy or always fun, but it is rewarding. No, my wife was not my reward for reading! I can’t believe you thought that. Although, the reward does have a lot to do with love, that’s for sure.