One of my blog readers asked the question:
"Do you have any practical ways to love the 'boring' stuff? I know it is good to read, but it still tastes like sand."
This is a great question!
It's definitely one that plagued me for many years, and I know many other girls who feel the same way. We know that reading theology books is as good for us as eating our vegetables, but they taste... well, like vegetables.
I think there are two equally valid considerations to keep in mind. First, don't read boring books. Read books that are interesting to you. Second, read boring books. They will stretch you.
Here are a few practical tips...
Read books that answer your questions. As I go through life, I have tons of questions, like...
What is heaven like? What is the purpose of marriage? How do I raise kids? Can I be confident about my salvation? How important is physical beauty? What am I supposed to be looking for in a potential spouse? Should I go to college? How can I know what God's will for me is? What happens to babies when they die? How can I know if I should listen to this music or watch this movie? Should I court or date? How can I be a godly friend? What does it mean to be modest? How do I resolve this conflict with my sibling/friend?
Books provide you with information that takes you down a path towards answering those questions more and more biblically. But like exercise, you won't experience instant gratification. It takes time to see the results. You have to work on it day by day, interspersed in your everyday living. As you think about what you read and talk about it with others, you eventually grow in wisdom.
Instead of searching for a formula, the Bible commands us to search for wisdom (Prov. 3:13, 4:6-7, Eccl. 2:26, James 1:5). Wisdom is centered on God and comes from God, it is not something that we can use apart from Him (Prov. 9:10). That is what makes wisdom so difficult to attain and why we would rather rely on simple human reasoning. We would rather find methods of making decisions that aren't quite so anguishing as falling on our face before the Lord and admitting we have no wisdom in ourselves.
When you read, instead of focusing on the question directly ahead of you (like whether courtship is good or bad), look for the principles at play (like a father's role in his daughter's life, the purpose of marriage, the folly of youth, etc.). The goal is to apply biblical wisdom (principles) to a specific situation. The exciting part is that once you have learned the principles, they will play into other decisions you face in the future.
Don't discipline yourself to read boring books. Discipline yourself to finish the books you start and keep reading, even when life gets busy.
This is a great time to utilize the advantage of audiobooks. It takes a little less discipline to listen to a vegetable book, and you can do housework or errands while you listen. It's kind of like melting cheese over your vegetables. Don't make reading harder than necessary. Ingesting the ideas is the goal. As you get more boring books under your belt, they will begin to shape your appetite in reading and become less and less boring ...you are what you eat.
There's a technique I use with my housework that I find helpful in the area of reading. When I have a chore to do that I don't feel like doing (usually that's washing the dishes) I just tell myself that I will wash them for only 10 minutes. Almost every single time, once I've been washing for ten minutes, I decide that it's really not that hard to keep going until they are all finished. I love that feeling of accomplishment when they're all done! By breaking the task into bite-sized pieces and only focusing on the duty straight ahead, I conquered the feelings of procrastination and being overwhelmed. Just starting is usually the hardest part.
The same principle can be used in your reading. I usually tell myself to read just three pages. By that time, I've disciplined myself for long enough that my interests start to get the better of me, and I'm actually tracking with the author. It's not that hard to discipline yourself to read 1-3 pages. It only takes a few minutes!
If you're serious about training yourself to be a reader, than discipline is going to be your friend. People seem to think that because I read so much, I must just be one of those "reader types". Well, it is true that I do enjoy reading. But I don't feel that joy when I pick up the book. It takes discipline for me to focus my mind and keep reading almost every single time. Once I've got going, it's hard for me to put it down! But I rarely feel that way when I pick the book up. My love of reading has grown from my discipline, and it's my discipline that keeps me going, not my unbounded passion for reading.
Choose small books to start off with. Don't pick up the first of three volumes on the philosophy and history of ancient law. Choose a small (under 100 pages) book. The gratification of finishing something quickly will feed your desire to start the next book. Make your goals attainable and then revel in the feeling of actually having joined the ranks of "readers" when you do finish.
Finally, Read books that excite you about life. These are the kinds of books that you will want to go back and read more of, even when life get busy. One of the first books that really started me reading was Passionate Housewives Desperate for God by Jennie Chancey and Stacey McDonald. Because that book connected my everyday life to spiritual ideas, it gave me passion and meaning in the mundane tasks I had to do day in and day out. Those are the best of books!
Some readers use books as a method of escape. They don't want to deal with life, they want to escape into a fantasy life and never come back. This happens with teens who read too much J.K. Rowling, and it happens with fifty year olds who escape into theological ivory towers.
Let's be careful that our theology always impacts our life... and that will ensure that as life brings its questions, we will keep returning to our God for wisdom in knowing how to live in a manner that glorifies Him.
I've compiled a list of "short books" on my goodreads profile. Some of them I've read, and some of them I haven't, but it could be a good way to get some ideas of manageable books to read that average at 100 pages.
If you would like some suggestions, take a look at my Recommended Reading tab:
Also, if you would like personalized suggestions, feel free to contact me at the address provided under the contact page! I would love to hear from you! :)
Now as the leaves are changing and the air gets crisp, I hope you'll take the opportunity to snuggle up with a good book!
Rachel Kirkpatrick lives in Hampton, VA where she is a happy girlfriend to Joe Tenney and an active member of Hampton Roads Fellowship church. She is enjoying exploring the East coast and learning what it means to live the gospel in every-day life.