Friday, July 22, 2016

books and faith

In between the child raising and project managing, I read. In between days out and cooking dinner - sometimes while cooking dinner - I read. After I put Ainsleigh to bed, in the space before Bennett's bedtime when he is often occupied with his father, I read.

I always have a book in my hands. I carry the book I am currently reading with me throughout the day. When I wake up I pick it up from where I've dropped it by the bed the night before and deposit it on the end of the kitchen table. As I play with the kids, and tidy the house, and run errands I know there is always a book on the kitchen table waiting to be read. There are days when I don't get to it, but there are many days where I ask the kids to please give me a minute, I'm finishing a page, a chapter, a sentence, a paragraph, a book.

My first year at university I went through a rough patch. Or rather a series of rough patches. And in the middle of it all, I remember wondering what could possibly make me feel better, which led me to realize I hadn't read anything aside from school work since I began my college courses. I didn't have a car so I walked the three miles to and from the public library, immersed myself in books that were not school related, and felt a small part of my life right itself.

I've always enjoyed reading. I've been a reader for as long as I can remember. In fact, I can't recall learning to read. In my memories knowing how to read has always been there. As has my inability to sound anything out because I had taught myself to read before my mother could introduce phonics. I still don't know sounds; I am learning them along with B. He actually has a better grasp on phonics than I do now that he has a year of preschool behind him. I am constantly embarrassed by the fact that I carry a degree in literature but cannot pronounce many common words. It's one of the reasons I prefer writing over speaking; I can't mispronounce a word if I'm not saying it out loud.

For years I've thought long and hard about what I should read. I've put down books I long to read because I can't endorse what's being sold between the pages. Some time ago I gave up my subscription to the magazine Vanity Fair because it was often too far off the mark of what I think and believe, and the photos weren't always what I wanted my growing children to see. I recently went through a period of reading solely Christian based fiction and non-fiction, including the Bible, because I thought that was the path I should walk, but I burned out on the concept of a sole source of words and information quite fast.

This calendar year I've read 100 books - so far. Books that have been about all sorts of things, and that have covered all kinds of subjects. I now think the Bible as base, the Truth as background, is the place to start off, and the platform to jump from, when exploring new titles and genres. If I only read one category I'm not stretching myself, or learning anything, or asking questions about things, or people, or religions I don't understand and haven't encountered. When I attended a Quaker university I wasn't given reading lists that were only (my) faith based, so why limit myself now?

However, I should be careful. From books I can learn anything I want to and explore any topic that captures my imagination, but I can also be persuaded to follow the world, to step away from my faith, to read beyond what I'm comfortable with. Earlier this summer I picked up a bestseller, read a little ways into it, and stopped. I really wanted to read the book. I was tempted to pick it back up and dive back in. But it promoted lifestyles I don't support, and there was a lot of vulgar language, and I knew it wasn't going to get better. So I put it down and picked up a different book.

By deciding to be more careful I've had to let go of the fierce determination to finish every book I start. I hate unfinished books; pages left unexplored, ideas half formed in my brain that the right author can flesh out and help me understand. But finishing a book just to finish it, just to add another book to the long list of titles I've finished isn't worth it. Especially if it pulls my focus from the core Truth I've built my life on.

What should I read? is a question I've asked myself for years. (I even put the question into Google once, hoping for a broad answer that would assuage my worry and ensure me I'm not falling into a pit of sin because I read something other than the Bible, or Christian focused fiction and non-fiction.) But lately I've learned that what I read, as with so much else, is an individual choice. Just like choosing where I spend my money, or how we raise our kids, or what we do with our spare time is an individual choice. And when I choose what to read I strive to select books that challenge me and help me retain sight of my ultimate goals: to live every aspect of my life in a way that is Truth based and God honoring. Because everything I read, and everything I see, and all of the streams of information that bombard me daily are affecting me and shaping me, even when I don't think they are.

1 comment:

  1. I really love to read, too. When I was little, I read the milk carton & the cereal package at breakfast. I learned how to read in 1st grade although Mother had already started me off with phonics before I started school (no kindergarten in our town then). I always loved mysteries & biographies. Today, I read mostly memoirs, Laura Lippman mysteries, biographies & some fiction. I collect books about the JFK and his family. One of my favorite Biblical based books is The Red Tent. I loved it! I agree with you about the language & lifestyles in some books & magazines. There are some of my magazines that will not be renewed when my subscriptions are out. Congratulations on reading so many books this year so far!


thank you!


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