My wife and I share a bookshelf as well as a small dresser (oh and a life), and truth be told I have more books and clothing than her. The dresser aspect simply speaks to the kind of woman she is – as she just doesn’t own all that much clothing. In fact neither do I – I just happen to have slightly more. As for books, well, not many of my friends know this but I read almost exclusively religious books. I have a half dozen or so non-religious books, and that’s it (Life of Pi anyone?).
Really, I just enjoy them. I find little in Sunday church services (I prefer my home group), I don’t have a stomach for religious music, and so I find solace in religious books. I try to own only what I really want and not have extraneous books, but nonetheless I’ve got a fair sized quiver. (Yes I’m aware that refers to arrows, though I’ve heard it used to refer to a collection of surfboards, so I’m expanding it even more).
I’m not ready yet to divulge the range of authors I have because no matter whose name you drop there is a connotation, association and judgment attached to each one, no matter how safe and cuddly they are. However today I began to ask a question – what do I gain from all these books?
Since I don’t show it off to anyone I’m not gaining any “ohh look how smart and intellectual he is” points. The reading part of my life didn’t arise until mid-college, so it hasn’t always been apart of me. So you’d think because this is a recent addition to my life that I’d report a newfound or stronger connection with God.
However even with the advent of a pile of spiritually minded books I can’t honestly say that I’m a better person because of them, in spite of the author’s hard work and great intentions. Certainly some books elicited responses where I felt closer to God, however if I take a step back that closeness seems only temporary, much like a buzz one gets from a strong beer.
I really wonder if my relationship with God has improved, if all of the talk of transformation has amounted to any tangible or noticeable change. I’d say my relationship with God has stayed about the same, more or less, in the last few years. No great advances, not a higher level of intimacy. I feel as though I’m where I’ve been for a while. My insight maybe has advanced, but that’s about all I can see.
Granted, we are most certainly the sum of our experiences, and I don’t see all of the ways the ideas and books I’ve encountered have become apart of me and are carried to each place I go in my life. However it still begs the question of have these books really brought me any further in my life? Or have they only given the appearance, especially to myself, that I’m pursuing God and his kingdom?
The same could be asked of sermons and conferences and the like for many, many religious folk. My particular example simply happens to be literature.
Well I suppose if nothing else they probably help keep my mind at least somewhat crisp as they invite engagement, focus, critical thinking and most simply a mind & eye exercise. But it’s worth continuing to inspect if I’ve delegated the books to a visceral part of my life that only satisfies the tiny philosopher in me, so that I can carry on life as is.
Could this be true for you? Do we fool ourselves with all of these various places we can encounter God when all they may really amount to is a small buzz?