How Reading Changes You, Part 1: Books Read Us

We don’t just read books. It’s often quite the opposite. Books—including the Bible—“read” us. They show us who we are, where we are and what we are.

by - Posted on Oct 3, 2011

Deeper Well blogger David Morris

My job as editorial director at Guideposts Books is, in a basic sense, to be a champion for reading. Although it brings me quite a bit of satisfaction, goodness knows, it’s a tough job.

On the one hand, we have today anything but a poverty of words. Information is delivered cheaply and conveniently. I’ve even heard it said that because of the digital age, people are actually reading more. On the other hand—and this goes for me too—folks just aren’t reading as deeply as they once did. There’s a lot of skimming the surface of things and a lack of an involved and participatory use of reading—really sitting with and engaging and thinking about what a book is saying. So along that line of thinking, we do live in a certain kind of poverty, one of not really settling on something and making it a lasting feature of our learning. In other words, we know more and understand less.

At Guideposts Books, we publish Bibles, inspirational fiction and nonfiction, devotionals and more. Each book is meant to accompany you on your spiritual journey. They should edify, enlighten, and do it in such a way that is compelling and interesting. Suffice it to say, then, I’m hoping to give readers more than just a few tidbits of insight. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I rely on them all the time to keep my head on straight. But for spiritual growth, we need to spend a good amount of time with a single subject; within it, we can let its flavors and aromas slowly infuse and enrich our lives.

And that’s what brings me to the topic that I want to explore in a three-part blog entry. (I won’t keep you here too long. It’s a blog after all. But you’ve got to come back over the next couple of weeks!)

I’ve been thinking more lately about how we don’t just read books. It’s often quite the opposite. The books “read” us. The stories, the ideas, the information—they show us who we are, where we are and what we are.

One familiar example to us all: Think about the Bible. We are accustomed to calling it God’s Word. We read it, but it also reads us. Think more specifically about the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9–13, Luke 11:2–4). Think about it as a sacred scripture which we read and sometimes pray. The cadence of the words is familiar. The words work their way into our thoughts like poetry or song lyrics. If we think too hard about what they mean—that is, if we read them like we’re possessing and consuming them—their impact becomes more elusive. If, instead, we simply recite them regularly, if we stay with them over and over, they remind us that we must seek and respect what is holy, remember we are indebted, that there is temptation, and that we must remain in pursuit of transformation. We then see our lives as part of the holy story that scripture reveals, a story of hope and redemption. We see that we are connected to something greater than ourselves. If you ask me, being “read” by the Lord’s Prayer is pretty cool.

Over the next two entries, let’s dig into this a little more, specifically about “spiritual reading,” and think about what it does to us, how it changes us.

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