My mom taught me to read when I was just 3. Many a pre-school afternoon was spent traipsing up and down the living room floor following footprints decorated with achievable snippets of first language. Sometimes the footprints wove in and out of rooms, along the hallway, out into the backyard, each twist and turn making the lesson an adventure. Objects around the house were labelled. Furniture was marked. House guests were bemused.
"Mommy, Daddy," and “Sister" came next. These words were some of the first I was able to read by sight, each one growing my vocabulary slowly, but surely, until one day I opened a book—the words of which I had previously been taught—to the joyful discovery that I could read the whole thing! The victory was sweet and my love of reading was born.
The house I grew up in had 2 reception rooms, but only one was truly usable: The second was a literal shrine to reading. Every wall was covered with shelves that buckled under the pressure of double-stacked books. It was a library in the truest sense of the word. Row upon row of commentaries, biblical exposition, biographies, historical narratives… Apart from a desk, any other furniture was nudged ever closer to the centre of the room to accommodate the room’s proper function—a treasure trove of literature.
With parents who read at any given opportunity, it was unsurprising that I read voraciously as a child. I adored English Literature at high school. And, then, when it came to choosing a subject to study at college, it was a no-brainer. I studied English Literature at Cambridge University and devoured at least six books a week. Bliss.
Reading has always been easy for me. I’ve read more novels that I can count. I own so many that I couldn’t take them all with me when I left home and my mum still houses many of them. It’s always been a passion, a joy, a pleasure.
But something has changed…
Fast forward 13 years, with 12 of those spent working in Christian publishing, and you might think that my love of reading is alive and well, happily satisfied by the contents of the company warehouse that houses more books, on more subjects of interest to me, than I would be able to count?
And yet, this is not so. While my working life is immersed in the creation and promotion of Christian books, my appetite for reading books has definitely dulled. I still read—but it’s mostly in snippets. And it pains me to reflect that—on many an occasion—books are increasingly being replaced by my smartphone.
So, what’s happened?
Well part of the problem is undoubtedly the stage of life I find myself in. Juggling work, children, and commitments to church and others has definitely reduced the amount of time I have to spend with my nose in a book. But when it comes to reading Christian books (or not) it’s also so much more than that...
Why can I still happily—joyfully even—pick up the latest novel by my favourite author, crash into a chair, leave the world behind me, and read for several hours, and yet find picking up a Christian book—on a subject that’s important to me—so much harder?
The problem? Well, I’ve come to the conclusion that—like most things in my life—the problem is me!
Escapism versus transformation
When I read a novel, I escape. The characters are not real. The scenarios are fictional. I dip in, I dip out. I pick up, I put down. It’s all on my terms. It’s easy.
But when I read a Christian book, I’m not escaping the world I live in, or the person that I am. It’s not entertainment, it is life changing. While scrolling endlessly through Facebook, news websites, blog pieces and other short scraps of information is effortless, the flip side is that it’s also instantly forgettable. However, when I read something that touches both my heart and my mind, it has the potential to be so much more than just a time-filler.
I’ve read hundreds of novels, but it’s fair to say that not many of them have left a sustainable impression on me. I’ve enjoyed many of them, and been thrilled by others, but ultimately I’ve put each of them back on the shelf—along with the adventures they contain, and I’ve walked away.
But the Christian books I’ve read (although fewer in number)—because of their capacity to probe, expose, encourage and change—are books that have left an indelible mark—not just on my mind but in my life.
I’ve returned to The King’s Cross by Timothy Keller multiple times because it reminds me of the One who should be the object of my affections—Jesus Christ—and it shows me Him in so many hues and tones that I cannot but help but be reminded of His immense grace and value.
In my early 20s, John Piper’s Don’t Waste your Life imprinted on me the importance of a life lived with eternal purpose, and the dangers of a life that is wasted. And more recently Christopher Ash’s short book on suffering—Where was God when that happened?—has given me renewed confidence in the goodness of God in every situation.
These are just a couple of books through which I’ve made life-changing discoveries that I would not have made without the wonderful diligence, experience, and godliness of some wonderful Christian authors.
And so, with this in mind, as the summer approaches, I’m resolved to replace forgettable, finger-scrolling reading with something more meaningful, intentional, and infinitely more valuable.
And while I don’t think I’ll ever reach the dizzy heights of reading 6 books a week again (!), one chapter at a time will definitely be a step in the right direction…
Won’t you join me?
This article originally appeared on thegoodbook.com. Used with permission.
Emily is part of the Marketing team at The Good Book Company. She is married to Dave and has two daughters.
We launched #RenewYourMind to encourage everyone to pick up a Christian book this summer. We’ve created a short film, we’re discounting some brilliant titles and we’re sharing stories of our favourite Christian books to get you excited about reading! Take a look
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