I gave up reading books other than the Bible for Lent this year.
Most people laugh when they hear me say this and usually joke about how they should have given up not reading or something…But most people who know me know that at any given time, I’m in the middle of reading about 10 different books. Books that vary in topics from church ministry, theology, spiritual formation, racial reconciliation, culture, etc.
At first I thought about giving up Chick-fil-a (which I would still benefit from probably), but this year I wanted to give up something that would actually create more space for me to listen and reflect. As I was sitting on my couch on Ash Wednesday morning, I knew exactly what I would need to give up to create that space.
Lately, my daily morning rhythm has become reading the Bible for 10-15 minutes, and then spending about at least another hour between 4 other books. Any free moment I have anywhere, I pull out a book (I always carry at least one with me and have a good stack of back-ups in my trunk). Before bed, I try to read a few more pages. A good couple of hours on my day off are reserved for reading.
Aside from all of the time I’m actually reading, I spend any empty brain space throughout the day processing what I read, how it connects to my life and the other books I’m reading, what I’m going to do about what I read, how it’s going to affect my life, who I should recommend that one book to…you get the point.
Reading isn’t a bad thing, I know that. And most of the books I’m reading are about God and/or the Bible anyway. But the first few weeks of Lent have made me realize how much of my value I have put in my knowledge. Without even really noticing it, I have wrapped up a good part of my value as a human being in my ability to consistently be growing in knowledge and diversifying my perspective.
Again, growing in knowledge and diversifying perspective are not necessarily bad things. But they become dangerous when I recognize that that’s where I’ve been misplacing my value…In knowing what to say about “hot topic” conversations. In having a well-rounded understanding of different sides of an argument. In having something to “offer” in regards to an issue. In the ability to give insight.
I have also been very much in my head with the Lord lately. Him and I are currently in the middle of working through a lot of things (i.e. his reputation in the Old Testament, where he’s at with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, racism, sexism, economic disparity…it’s a really long list). I have been spending a disproportionate amount of time asking Him about these things and listening to everything other (educated) people are saying. I have been spending waaaayyy more time listening to other voices. One more time—that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There are many, many people who are way more educated and experienced than I am that have been wrestling with similar things (and for a lot longer).
The issue is not their voices, it’s how little time I have spent listening to the Lord on these things lately.
It’s crazy how much brain space has been freed up in the last few weeks of not reading other books. Now, I wish I could say that I suddenly have so many great revelations to share from the Lord, but that’s not exactly true.
What I have become increasingly aware of is, if I don’t open myself up to knowing the Lord in different ways, I am missing out. We have access to the entire being of God, his whole character. In my 23 years of life, I have not even come close to knowing him in his entirety.
I’ve come to know him in many different ways— loving father, peaceful Jesus, redeemer and reconciler, truth, liberator, just to name a few. But I don’t have to stop there.
My professors in college used to use this example of Moses pretty often. One day, Moses met God in the form of a burning bush. What if he would have spent the rest of his life coming back to that same bush, waiting for the Lord to show up in the same way that he had yesterday, the day before, last month, 3 years ago? He would have missed out on everything else that the Lord did as he led him back to Egypt and though the desert!
Sometimes I get caught up in wanting the same thing from the Lord. The way he used to speak to me 2 years ago, how I experienced him while living in El Salvador, the times when he felt so obvious…
But there is so much more of the Lord that I’m missing if I don’t open myself up to knowing him differently.
And that being said, I have to be open to him not meeting any of my expectations. But if he is who he says he is, it’s worth it.
And so may you make space for the Lord as he meets you. May you meet him with an openness to mystery. May the mystery draw you deeper. May the depth of his being fill your empty spaces. May the empty, confusing, painful spaces draw you in.
He’s worth it.