Reading Books: A Splash of Cold Water

February 11, 2019

When was the last time you were splashed with cold water? It can be jolting (your 8-year-old rigs the kitchen faucet to spray you) or refreshing (you walk by a sprinkler on a scorching day.) In either situation, you’re suddenly awake!

My life lulls me to sleep. It’s not that it’s always relaxing; on the contrary, I have my share of action, crisis, and general mayhem. But sometimes the plodding nature of it rocks my little baby brain to sleep. Goo goo ga ga. I just do the next thing. I lose my vision for how God can change me or use me, I stop thinking big thoughts, and when I finally plop down I’m likely to grab my phone for some mind-numbing news or internet blabber.

It’s not that those actions are wrong; in fact, sometimes easy relaxation is just what I need. But I can get mentally stuck there. Giving the baby a rattle is good for a few minutes, but she eventually needs a little bit more.

When I’m in that zone, the idea of reading books can seem…hard. I have to find one. Borrow one. Buy one. Open up its heavy cover. Turn its weighty pages. I might even be required to think. I’m tired already. Better just to grab my phone, which is already conveniently cradled in my device-shaped left hand.

When I fight through that lazy moment and pick up a quality book, I’m often surprisingly refreshed by its icy blast of new ideas. It wedges my mind out of familiar ruts, asking, “Did you ever think of this? Did you know God is like that? Have you considered changing the way you do this? Have you heard about this person’s exemplary faith?” And suddenly I’m breathing new air, receiving the gift of someone else’s creativity, experience, study, and knowledge. My mind has woken up. The most difficult and important step is simply picking up the book.

Are you languishing? Has your brain turned into baby food? Are you staring at screens ad nauseam?

Then grab:

  • The Bible. Read one chapter. It’s the breath of God, absolute truth, infinitely better than any book, and the gauge by which we choose our other reading. It has to be first.
  • Knowing God by J.I. Packer: Go through a chapter explaining one attribute of God. It will be a protein shake for your soul.
  • Trusting God by Jerry Bridges: You already know you should trust God, but this book will show you why and how.
  • Any book on any topic from the church bookshop: Our pastors recommend these to us. Pick one on a topic of interest or struggle and read it for ten minutes a night. You’ll go to sleep to whispers of lovely truth instead of ugly worry.
  • A biography. Reread The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom or Dallimore’s biography of  Charles Spurgeon. The scales of postmodern America will fall from your eyes and the view will be dazzling.
  • Read quality fiction and climb into someone else’s life instead of your own. It’s fascinating, inspiring, and builds compassion.

“What if I’m a slow, struggling reader?” you may ask. Great! God created your beautiful slow-reading brain, and life is not a race. Even a few pages will give you an excellent thought or two to chew on. Plus, perseverance is a rare gem. Go for it!

Be warned though: If you want to ensure your mind is always filled with pin numbers, hashtags, grocery circulars, and insurance deductibles, please do NOT pick up a book. Otherwise, join me in the challenge to unclench the phone claw and wake up!

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