Thursday, January 24, 2008

Well Read

I was in college before it occurred to me that I could actually enjoy reading. Nearly all my reading was school work; and that was, well, work. I’m a slow reader, and I don’t have the greatest comprehension, either. Maybe it’s ironic that I like to write.

I took a speed reading class while I was in college, but I can’t tell that it did any good. I got good at passing my eyes over the words, but I couldn’t fully grasp the content. I have long since given up on those techniques.

I have found that sometimes the Holy Spirit gives me what feels like a supernatural ability to read and absorb quickly. Maybe that’s how some people read all the time. I often pray for that kind of mental clarity.

Christian mystic A. W. Tozer said that he would often read on his knees. He may have meant that figuratively, but he sought God’s help to understand what he was reading. Of course we want to read the Bible on our knees, asking the Spirit to enlighten us. But we also need the Spirit to enlighten us about everything we read. Tozer said that he would read great works of literature on his knees, asking God to help him understand Shakespeare, for example.

Tozer also said that there is a difference between being “well read” and having done a lot of reading. One can read plenty of books without really grasping the deep meaning of the work. Sometimes we may need to read a book over and over to mine it thoroughly.

This week I picked up my copy of Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster. I had read this book in the 1980s, and then read it again about three years ago. But when I read the first chapter again on Monday, the words were so alive that it seemed like I had never seen them before. My own markings in the book assured me that I had been there before.

The words hit home for me in a fresh way because God has grown me. Many times this happens when I read the Bible. As I grow in Christ, I am ready to hear things in a new way. The experience reminds me of the lyrics of Toby Mac’s song, “No Ordinary Love.”

Mama never said it would be like this.
I never knew such bliss existed.
Maybe it’s just so indescribable,
Love was liable to get it twisted.
She never told me, but if she tried,
I was a little to young and
it floated right by me.
I never dreamed of love so fulfilling,
Simply killing and over spilling on me.

There are a lot of things that have floated right by me. I want to keep growing, so I keep putting myself where God can pour himself into my soul. Who knows how much I’m missing? There is always more that Jesus wants to show me. Compared to knowing Jesus, everything is just trash.