Saturday, May 29, 2010

Three Ways to Read, Part One

My senior year of high school, I decided to satisfy my English teacher's requirement of 1000 pages of outside reading in one fell swoop with Gone With the Wind. I sat down to start reading it one Friday evening after dinner and read straight through the entire weekend, stopping only to eat, sleep, and go to church. I WAS Scarlett O'Hara for three days. It was a glorious literary experience. I haven't read the book again since, because when I do, I want to read it the same way.

I've read other books that way. The Bridges of Madison County. The last two or three Harry Potter books, to some degree. I don't often have the time anymore to read a book straight through in one sitting like that, but I still think it's the best way to do it. And Mortimer Adler, in his classic How to Read a Book agrees. He says when reading a novel, one should allow oneself to be completely immersed and lost in the world the author has created. This is the only way to truly experience it.

(And this is partly why I don't read novels much anymore. Just sayin'.)

I think this is the best way to read some books of the Bible as well. The letters, for example. How many of us get a letter from somebody . . . okay, put aside the fact that nobody sends letters anymore in our technological age . . . but how many of us get a long letter from a dear friend and read it a section a day for a week or two? No, we plop down on the couch and read the whole thing straight through the minute we get it. It's not a sermon, or an instruction manual, or an informational text, bits of data to be inputted and stored away for future reference -- it's a conversation with a friend. A relational and experiential moment.

This weekend, on my little personal getaway retreat, I'm making a point of reading some books of the Bible straight through. The Bible is a storybook, after all. And a conversation with Almighty God. Once in a while, we need to read it that way.

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