We live in a culture that idolizes reason and academia, and if we read a lot, we feel that we're living up to that. Thus, we inadvertantly make reason an idol in our reading. Also, many girls especially fall into the trap of fan-idolizing. A seemingly innocent and excusable activity, which leads to a very shallow view of literature. We must worship God and God alone. We must never idolize books, for they are inanimate, and sometimes very flawed, objects. The object of this post is not idolatry, so we'll have to deal with rooting that out another time. The object of this post is on the importance of having a passion for reading.
A lot of people refuse to enter into reading with passion, because they are afraid of idolatry. We talked about the difference between passion and idolatry last time, so if you didn't get a chance, you can catch up here. But we forget that a book is a tangible expression of the author's soul, and when we take it in our hands, we should be incredibly awed and excited about the privilege of sharing in that. Anything worth doing is worth doing with boiling-over excitement. Reading is a very worthy activity, when we do it to advance the kingdom of God, and passion is a key part of that.
We will never truly enjoy reading unless we read with passion.
What Does Passion Require?
1. Passion requires Exclusivity.
Jesus Christ preached a gospel of exclusivity in his time on earth. "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) Since Jesus is the Truth, and the only way to God, that means that truth can be very exclusive. In the matter of reading, the principles of truth found in Scripture may cause us to make some bold decisions on what is good and what is not good reading material. Many people criticise exclusivity because it seems so narrow, but the principle remains--if God has given us an exclusive gospel, then we must be bold in saying "This is right, and this is wrong." I understand differing convictions to a certain extent, but we are a set apart people, and Christian bibliophiles must not be afraid of coming across as narrow-minded simply because they have standards of right and wrong in their reading. Truth is absolute. Morals are absolute. And we must be passionate about making sure that our reading conforms to absolute standards found in God's Word.
2. Passion requires Vulnerability
To have a zeal for something, we have to go out on a limb with it. Our biggest block to reading passionately is the fear that we are reading something wrong. What if we throw ourselves heart and soul into a story, only to find that it is something we must give up? That's a risk we take. To truly enjoy reading, we have to be willing to be vulnerable to hurt. Yes, maybe we're going to have to give a book up some day, but it's better to take that risk than to never truly take delight in anything. When we refuse to take risks, we miss so much joy and beauty that God wants us to have. We must be willing to take so much delight in reading that we are vulnerable to disappointment.
3. Passion requires Surrender.
When we hold books tightly, God must pry our fingers open and take them away from us. Don't get me wrong--getting excited about a book doesn't mean that it will turn into an idol. But harboring an unwillingness to give a book up quickly turns passion to idolatry. Oftentimes, after finishing a particularly good book, I think "I don't know how I would ever give that one up." And then I remind myself that these books are not mine, but the Lord's, and if He calls me to do so, he will give me the strength to carry through. Passion requires holding your books with open hands instead of clenched fists.
4. Passion requires Confidence.
The Church of Christ needs a generation of confident bibliophiles. Many homeschoolers live in fear that their way is not as good as everyone else's way. Confidence means being able to clearly and passionately articulate why we choose to read certain books. Don't second guess yourself every time someone doesn't read what you do. Know what you believe, and why you believe it, and apply that belief with confidence. Christian bibliophiles should fear God, not man, in their reading requirements. Fear of God chooses books that please Him. Fear of man chooses books based on other people's convictions and approval. We must truly try to cut down on all our clarifications and apologies, for excessive clarifications cut down on both passion and confidence. If we have to apologize for a book, then maybe we shouldn't be reading it. Humans are frail, and I think we should be able to read faulty human writing without having to make it sound God-inspired when we talk about it with others.
Let us be a confident generation, avoiding the pitfall of constantly justifying our choices in the eyes of others. We will be called to give an account to God, and God alone.
The End of It All
I have often had the worry about the passion vs. idolatry that I discuss here. Particularly one story, and one author, that I met this last year. Every time I pick it up to start it again, I get this nail-biting worry that maybe I'm loving it too much.
And the Lord asks me, "If I wanted you to give it up, would you do it?"
Then, after I confirm that I am holding it with open hands, I am free to go and read it again--laughing and crying, and re-living all the same favorite scenes that I did before. I do not try to justify it to everyone, for I know not everyone approves of it. But willingly do I embrace the vulnerability of loving it, for I have received glorious joy and drama as a result.
Just because you love a story deeply doesn't mean you're idolizing it. And if Christians cannot read with deep passion, then it would be better not to read at all.
What do you think?