Thursday, February 7, 2013

Why Do I Read Books?

I've come across a few articles lately about why various individuals choose to read books.  And they got me thinking.  Why do I read books?  I found it curious that I'd never really explored this question before.  Curious because it's important to me to put into words (or at least into thoughts) why I do the things I do.  I've developed my own philosophy, a system of thought or set of principles, for significant areas of my life - why I parent the way I do, why I practice my faith as I do, why I choose to homeschool and the methods I use to do that, why and how I live out the various ministries that God has called me to, etc.  Now, I wouldn't necessarily lump reading books into those "more important" areas of my life.   Yet, I do give a significant amount of my time to reading.  So . . . that leads me to conclude that it would be a good thing for me to explore why I read books.

I've spent the last week or so thinking that question over and jotting down thoughts and reasons as they came to me.  Here's what I came up with:

Why do I read books?  Because books . . .

* convict me - Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption, Les Miserables and Same Kind of Different As Me have each convicted my heart.  They have given me "rubber-meets-the-road" examples of what true love and sacrifice look like.  All three books have brought me to tears in acknowledgement that I have far to go in learning what it truly means to love others.

* encourage my heart - Your God Is Too Safe encouraged my heart by showing me that I am growing in my walk with the LORD.  Realizing that the author had come to some of the very same conclusions about God that I have recently been learning caused my heart to take joy.  His words testified with my own spirit that I am walking in the ways of God's wisdom.  Randy Alcorn's Heaven encouraged my heart by reminding me that the Best is yet to come.  And that when my life is focused on things of eternity, I am precisely walking in the way God desires.

* inform me - Moving Toward the Mainstream recently informed me about some aspects of the Brethren heritage of which I am part.  I learned some things about the history of the denomination I had not known before and was able to look at some issues from a new perspective.  Reading this book has helped to grow my appreciation of this heritage as well as remind me of dangers of following a practice for tradition's sake alone.

* strengthen my faith - Reading Three Cups of Tea gave me a glimpse into the lives of people across the world who practice another faith.  It helped me to remember that they, too, were created in the image of God and that they deal with fears, struggles and joys like mine - different yet similar.  Reading that book also helped to dispel some fear about those whose faith may be very different than mine and, instead, has cultivated a compassion and love for them.  Reading books about other faiths from time to time strengthens my own faith.  They force me to check my own heart to make sure that my faith is built on the truths of God and not on practices or rituals that I've created.

* delight me - The Anne of Green Gables books simply delight me!  They cause me to take joy in beauty - the beauty found in words, in nature, in simple things, and in the One Who made it all.

* help me to fulfill my purpose and callings - The many resource books I read on cooking, hospitality, entertaining, activities and games help me to carry out my God-given responsibilities and bless my relationships.  They provide inspiration and ideas that help me create a fun, stimulating, and encouraging environment for my family, friends, guests, neighbors, and all those that are a part of the sphere of my life.

* evaluate my heart - The Brokenness, Surrender, & Holiness triology by Nancy Leigh DeMoss never fails to cause me to evaluate and examine my heart.  (Actually, any book written by NLD has the tendency to that!)  I so appreciate Nancy's commitment to holiness and spiritual growth in the LORD.  Reading her writings always brings about revival in my heart.

* inspire me - Reading about the lives of such people as Lilias Trotter, Amy Carmichael, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer never fails to inspire me and keep me following hard after God.  Getting a glimpse into the lives of others who are willing vessels for His work inspires me to want the same.

* challenge me to deeper thinking - Any book written by C. S. Lewis challenges me!  I love his logic, his way with words, and his ability to succinctly and perfectly sum up a thought.  I always say that I can only handle a bit of Lewis at a time.  I must take a bite and chew slowly - but once digested, how sweet it is.  Breath for the Bones: Art, Imagination and Spirit - A Reflection on Faith and Creativity has been a challenge for me to deeper thinking as well.  The author's writing is beautiful and thought-provoking and inspiring.  So much so that a friend and I have read and discussed it together - I wanted and needed another to help sort through and discover the depths and riches of the concepts in this book.

* teach me - Instruments in the Redeemer's Hand - People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change is a book I've read again and again.  It has taught me how to build relationships, counsel others, ask good questions, and, in general, be of help to other brothers and sisters in Christ.

* grow me spiritually - Choosing Gratitude and One Thousand Gifts have both been used by God to create and cultivate a thankful, grateful heart.  He has used the concept of gratitude to change my life.

* help me to form my philosophies, my ways of thinking and living - Books have helped me develop and strengthen why I do what I do in regarding to marriage, parenting and living life, in general.  Shepherding a Child's Heart, Joshua Harris' books, and When Sinners Say I Do are just a few of the many that have helped to grow my ways of thinking in relation to who we are as a family.

Whew.  That's what I came up with - why I read books.  And, you know, as my list grew, it became clear to me to that there's a common thread woven through each of those reasons.  They all direct me back to Him.  They show me more of Him.  In just about any book I've chosen to read, He's there - whispering, shouting, guiding, revealing Himself in sometimes unexpected places.

And so, if I had to sum up why I read books in one short sentence, it would be this:  To know more of Him.


Vicki said...

Thanks for sharing these ideas Julie. This inspires me to think about why I love to read. I'm sure some of my reasons will be the same as yours. Right now I'm reading a fiction book out of the Zion Covenant series by Bodie Thoene. I just love the research the Thoenes do to make a historical period come alive. This series covers Hitler's tyranny and WW2.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post... so many of your thoughts about reading books ring true for me, too. But you said it so much better than I could have put it! You have challenged me to reflect and attempt to journal my own "why do I love to read books..."
God loves books, too.... *-D

Julie said...

Thanks, ladies - glad you appreciated the post. Vicki, I read that series years ago - I've wondered how many hours they put into their intense research for that series?!