Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Read Hard Books

Sometimes the things that make us grow the most are not the things that we would choose. It's the difficult situations that make us strong. And it's often the difficult books that really stretch our minds and make us wise.

I like to read. But if I'm honest, I like to read books that I find relaxing or enjoyable. Sometimes I like to read books that address a specific responsibility I have, like parenting. You know how you're usually drawn to people who have similar interests or similar backgrounds? Well, my book choices are like that...frequently very similar. But this year I'm trying to read a wider variety. To stretch my mind in new areas. To expose myself to different ways of thinking. To get outside my reading comfort zone. (In case you're interested, I'm using this reading plan to accomplish this.)

I just finished a book that quite honestly I wouldn't typically choose to read. But the last 50 or so pages were so compelling and encouraging that I was literally crying at Panera while I finished it up. It's an allegory by C.S. Lewis called The Pilgrim's Regress

The Pilgrim's Regress is sort of a modern-day version of The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan. And keep in mind that when I say modern-day, I mean published in 1933 versus 1678! So, not necessarily all that modern, and not necessarily an easy read. But I pushed through and at the end I was so glad I did. Some of the philosophical arguments probably went over my head, but there was a great deal of deep, rich insight for me to really think on.

This allegory is about a man named John who is walking through life in search of a great and beautiful island he has seen in visions. He begins a journey to find the island and along the way meets and interacts with people who represent various philosophies and worldly ideas of the time. They affect his thinking and make him question many things, especially the existence of the Landlord (who represents God). Eventually he comes to a great chasm and realizes his path to the island is completely blocked. He cannot cross over. He meets Mother Kirk (Christianity) who informs him that there is no chance of him crossing the chasm at all unless she carries him down. He doesn't trust her and decides to look for a way across the canyon on his own.

After trying and failing many times he comes to the realization that Mother Kirk was right...there is only one way across the canyon. Only one way to get to the beautiful island he has been longing for all his life.

Lewis' description of John's salvation experience is powerful:
     "I have come to give myself up," he said.
     "It is well," said Mother Kirk. "You have come a long way round to reach this place, whither I       
     would have carried you in a few moments. But it is very well."
     "What must I do?" said John. 
     "You must take off your rags," said she, "as your friend has done already, and then you must dive
     into this water." 
     "Alas" said he, "I have never learned to dive."
     "There is nothing to learn," said she. "The art of diving is not to do anything new but simply to
     cease doing something. You have only to let yourself go." 
     "It is only necessary," said Vertue, with a smile, "to abandon all efforts at self-preservation." 
     "I think," said John, "that if it is all one, I would rather jump." 
     "It is not all one," said Mother Kirk. "If you jump, you will be trying to save yourself and you 
      may be hurt. As well, you would not go deep enough. You must dive so that you can go right 
      down to the bottom of the pool: for you are not to come up again on this side. There is a tunnel in 
      the cliff, far beneath the surface of the water, and it is through that that you must pass so that you 
      may come up on the far side."  (p. 166-7)

Its not a book I would have chosen, but its a book that encouraged and deeply affected me. It was a tough read at times, but I'm glad I read it!

What about you? Do you hate reading? Do you only read for work-related purposes? Do you only read historical fiction or romance novels or mysteries? Let me encourage you to read something different. Something good, but something that would challenge you in a new and maybe deeper way.

And not to be patronizing, but I feel like it has to be said...if you aren't reading the Bible, start with that! There are tons of Bible reading plans out there to get you started if you don't know where to begin. Like this one or this one.

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