I love to read. I don’t remember ever not loving it. As a child, laying on my belly, in the warm squares of sunlight on the carpet, I spent many hours getting lost in other parts of the world, other periods in time or, my favorite, other worlds altogether. I love the smell of newly printed ink on paper or the feel of an old, well-loved binding in my fingers. The notification that my requested books have arrived at the library makes me giddy. When someone else has read and loved the books I have, I immediately know I have met a friend. I might go overboard with trying to slip references from books into everyday conversation. My online library activity log is rarely dormant for more than two days. I take a legit tote bag to the library. I would rather spend an evening in Barnes and Noble than plenty of other places. And, true confession, – my kids have eaten cereal for dinner on a number of occasions because I lost track of time while reading. It’s okay; it’s actually one of their favorite dinners.
Clearly, I am a book nerd.
I used to think that all people must think like me and adore reading anything they could get their hands on. Now, I understand that not all people think of reading in such glowing terms. The pendulum of ‘reader type’ swings from the extreme of those who think a book’s only useful purpose would be as a doorstop, to those who can’t keep their noses out of a book long enough to experience their own lives and live in stories instead of reality. I like to think of myself as somewhere in the healthy middle (although I might lean slightly towards the obsessive when I have to find out if Bilbo makes it past the dragon, if Digory and Polly escape the witch, if Catherine ever sees Mr. Tilney again, and other such crucial literary moments).
But, when I dive deeper into why I enjoy reading and stories, I find that it is because I have already read the greatest book. And this book, instead of ruining all others, grounds me to know what is right and true and lovely. If I am going to find any true and pure enjoyment in any written word, my love and enjoyment must always rest in the Word. I can only truly enjoy other stories because I have read the Master storyteller. I can only truly appreciate the beauty and truth in a story because I know the most Beautiful and True. And by knowing the Word, I can correctly judge between all other words.
I love reading precisely because I treasure the Word. God has given us an incredible gift. A tangible, hold in your hands, paper and ink (or sometimes a screen), gift to communicate the intangible work of the Holy Spirit as He divides between soul and spirit, joints and marrow and judges the thoughts of the heart. No other book does this. No other book is living.
Isaiah 29 records the prophet’s foreboding vision of the siege of Jerusalem. He is telling the people of God that although they are hearing God’s words with their ears about the coming judgement they are not listening with their hearts. Isaiah says that even if it was written in a book (a scroll, which is the first century equivalent), they would turn away and give excuses. But God promises that He will soon make His words bear fruit in the hearts of His people.
“In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book,
And out of their gloom and darkness
The eyes of the blind shall see.” (v. 18)
What other book is like that? One that opens your eyes. One that causes you to understand that you are deaf no longer. One that quickens the heart that you didn’t know was dead. This is the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit through His everlasting Word. How wonderful! How priceless! How precious!
Charles Spurgoen said, “Visit many good books, but live in the Bible.”’ Live there. Dwell, there. Find your enjoyment there. The Word becomes our life. And only then, we can visit good books, and fully enjoy what we find there. We have the confidence of truth that comes from God’s Word alone.
But, of course, there are readers that do not acknowledge the Word. Oh, how tragic and how much they are missing! When a tragedy ends in sorrow, what joy can be found in the hope of the Word. When a story brings happiness, what a picture of the bliss to be found in the promises of the Word. When a comedic character brings humor and light, what a picture of the light that will end all sorrow. When a reader does not know the Word, what depths of joy and love and hope they are unaware of.
Those who do live in the Word, can turn with thankfulness to enjoy the stories of humanity; of love and light, of beauty and happiness, of sorrow and loss, of brokenness and pain, of a longing for the restoration of all things. We can humbly experience another place and another time through the experience of another. We can quietly discern what is true and what is twisted. We can be bolstered in our faith by the example of others before us. We can set our hearts on perfect things to come by seeing the things that are broken. We can, with gratitude, treasure stories from creatures who are wordsmiths like their Creator. Certainly flawed, certainly sinful, but still a reflection of His image. We can with gratefulness, enjoy reading! Remembering that our human words will pass away, but His words never will.
Visit many good books, but live in the Bible. – C. H. Spurgeon