Updated: Apr 17, 2018
Books are magical. They are sermons, doors to new worlds, time machines, bridge builders and hold the power to heal, end poverty, awaken hope and so much more. This is not how I always felt about books. In fact, for a long time, I had some shame about my lack of interest in books or how little I read. I have always loved picture books, but at a certain point, I felt like I was ‘too old’ for them. “Big children don’t read picture books. They are made for kids who are learning to read.” I thought, or at least I feared everyone around me thought like that. After I had given up children’s story picture books, the only kind of books that I enjoyed was non-fiction. I loved books about animals and their care. But they didn’t of course count as real reading books for school. I was the child who would ask her teacher how many pages she was expected to read for the next day. I was never a confident reader and I read slowly.
Tasting the Sweetness of Books
When I met Jesus as a teenager and was often told that you were supposed to read your Bible every day, well, yep you can already fill in the blank how that went down for me. It was an added burden that quickly turned into guilt. It wasn’t until I was a young adult that I discovered the joy of reading again, after a long time since saying farewell to my picture books. I started reading Christian spiritual literature that I was starving for. It started changing the way I saw God, myself and the world.
Next, I took an intensive 4-month long School of Biblical Studies course in the hope to ‘catch up’ and fix the problem of biblical illiteracy that I suffered from. It seemed like our teacher didn’t only read and study his Bible but that he had a relationship with it. The Bible was a pathway for him to meet with a living God. I soon fell in love with the Bible. Each word felt like a personal message from my loving God to me.
Much, much later in life, I was introduced to Lectio Divina (holy reading) and contemplative, imaginative reading of the Scripture. These ways of reading are not concerned about gathering information but rather the formation that takes place as we consider a short text, phrase or even just one word. Speed has no function and what matters is the transformative encounter with God through the reading of the text.
Slow-Reading vs. Excess-Reading
I am still not a fast reader. There have been seasons in my adult life when I only read one book a year, and times when I read a lot, like right now. In the society of excess of news, books, blogs, magazines etc. I still sometimes get caught up in the anxiety of how many important things I have not yet read. But the voice that I am learning to listen more often is one that says that “if something is worth reading, it should be worth reading slowly”.
Most of us are over-consumers of information and entertainment, which our minds and souls can never digest. We glance through news sites, listen to podcasts, browse Instagram and are obsessed with “optimizing our use of time”. Don’t hear me saying that I think those are bad things. I enjoy all of them in portions. But I wish someone would hold the STOP-sign in front of my face those evenings when I am watching Netflix while reading a book and once in a while on autopilot reach to my phone to ‘check IG’. In my experience, reading is a lot more soul-satisfying and nurturing, when I practice more consideration in pre-selection of what I read, give it the time and attention it deserves, and use moderation in the portion size intake at a time.
Making a Slow-Read Picture Book
My sister (who is a talented illustrator) and I, have had a long-term dream to make a book. A book that is meant to be read slowly. A book that has pictures and is made for children, teenagers and adults. A book that invites and accompanies the reader of the images and words to meet with God. It still feels like a big, scary, and very exciting dream. We can’t wait to share more about it soon.
What books have made you pause and reflect?
What books have you wanted to read again before you even finished them?
How do you think your reading history and habits effect the way you read the Bible?
If you are interested in learning more about contemplative, slow reading of the Bible these are excellent resources for you.
Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading By Eugene Peterson
Opening to God: Lectio Divina and Life as Prayer by David Benner
Also, if you are interested in finding a soul-feeding book but need recommendations, check out my Pinterest Board 'Words'.