I wrote this in June of last summer (2015), and it’s as relevant today as it was then. I read over the original post and was cringing at some of the grammar, voice, and style I used. Looking back, I probably wouldn’t have said the same things in the same way. A year can make a big difference.
Having said that, a year can make a big difference in your reading habits. Moreover, a few months can generate good reading habits. If you’re not a big reader (Americanized-Russian culture generally isn’t), what better time to start good reading habits than today? In fact, that was the original title of the post: “What Better Time to Start?” Indeed–ask yourself.
It’s been a long while since my last attempt at something resembling a well-written post. I can mutter something about being “too busy”, “traveling too much”, “working like crazy”, “too much going on”, “I’ve been exhausted lately”, and any other overused, albeit sincere, reasons. Those all very well may be true, but anyone on the receiving end of such a reply can exasperatedly ask “well, what exactly is taking up all your precious time, Artur?” All this with a rather sarcastic and deserved accent on that now frightful word: “precious!”
If I were to answer that question honestly, I’m sure it would result in a lot of introspection as to why I spent so much time doing needless things that don’t accord with the pursuit of righteousness, faith, love and peace with them that call on the Lord from a pure heart (2 Tim. 2:22). Those are broad categories, and the astute reader will find ways in which almost all his actions can fit under that umbrella, provided he’s determined to excuse himself. My point isn’t to have you question how you’ve
wasted spent your time, I’m sure you feel guilty enough. What I want to do is commend something worthwhile for you to spend your time on.
This something is an integral element of the Christian life. The people that do this at a young age, on the whole, grow to be more successful, sharper thinkers, better logicians, and more productive members of society. This activity is God’s design for how we learn, how we can have other people’s experience shape our own view of reality. This activity is: reading! God has spoken, and has inspired the New Testament writers to write down his speech. Jesus referenced the Old Testament as God speaking to them. If God has spoken and His Word has been inscripturated– it must be read. Moreover, Christians ought to be voracious readers.
As a kid, after newly immigrating to the US in 1994, I was drawn into a story of a human-like creature that had to travel across his world with a certain stubborn company of men seeking to reclaim their homeland and treasure. Was that description broad enough? It was JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit that ignited in me a sense of awe and wonder for the world beyond. Tolkien was masterful in his descriptions of the characters, at one point even frightening me with his narration of Gollum’s interactions with the Ring of Power. I couldn’t wait to turn the page, I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen next. Whatever it was that Tolkien was doing, it took on a life of its own. I remember reading The Hobbit like it was yesterday, partly because it’s such a great story with remarkable Biblical and redemptive themes, but also because something happened to me reading Tolkien. I was reminded of that experience watching Jurassic World the other day. It made me feel like a kid again; the music, the dinosaurs, seemingly mythical creatures running around preying on humans, and of course, each other–it left me speechless.
Why? There was something about the mythical nature of the whole story. Something that drove me away from the relatively ordinary reality I currently inhabit. Something that invoked in me a sense of awe and wonder, a desire to experience something truly extraordinary, something sweet to the taste, something infinite, something beyond. Perhaps its greatest effect is that it makes you look outside yourself, away from this corruptible body, away from this sinful flesh, away from this finite life to something more. Something ravishing. Something wonderful. It creates a longing for a world that’s incalculable, that will exceed all expectations, and fulfill every latent desire this mortal body experiences.
Moreover, it doesn’t just make me long for an extraordinary world, it makes me long for the knowledge and experience of a relationship with the Divine. Who better than the incarnate Son of God– whose existence is eternal, whose character is constant, whose knowledge is infinite, and who has condescended to us that we may begin to know Him? John Chrysostom spoke of Christ’s condescension as God revealing himself in the way one incapable of beholding him, is able to look upon him. A condescension where he reveals himself proportionately to our weakness. Consider him, who was before all things, and in whom all things hold together (Colossians 1:17). He is the one for whom you were made, He ought to be the object of your awe, and He is the one who should inspire wonder.
That same Christ created reading to give us a glimpse into the world beyond, to fill our hearts and minds with wonder, to inspire our affections. It teaches us about our world by revisiting stories of others who’ve experienced it. It teaches us about the people who inhabit it. And finally, it teaches us about the Christ who created it.
This summer, continue reading your Bible, and also pick up a classic book. You might learn a thing or two about yourself, the world you inhabit, and most importantly, the God who created both you and it.
Give the podcast below a listen and let them encourage you to do the same thing.
Artur is planning on rereading The Hobbit once he’s finished with Moby Dick.
NOTE: Full disclosure, I still haven’t finished Melville, and I decided to forego The Hobbit for a second reading through the Lord of The Rings.