Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Books We Choose To Read

My husband and I are readers.  Interestingly, though, we read very different books.  He loves books by Wendell Berry, Flannery O'Connor, John Piper, and P.D. James.  I, on the other hand, enjoy Francine Rivers, Jerry Bridges, Cynthia Heald, and Lois Lowry.  I do enjoy a good book, but my husband enjoys literature.  I enjoy books that are easy for me to read.  He enjoys ones that are hard--that challenge him with their vocabulary.  I enjoy ones that challenge me to think without keeping me mired down rereading one page several times.  

But, as a way to love my husband, I periodically read a book that he wants me to read.  Last year, I read Distracted by Maggie Jackson, as his request.  It deeply impacted my thinking about technology and it's part in my life.  I read George MacDonald's books The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdie at his suggestion as well.  I actually chose to read The Princess and Curdie because I loved the first book so much.  Another time, he suggested that I read Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry.  It is still one of the best books I've read.  

This week, I read P.D. James' novel An Unsuitable Job for a Woman.  It took me a bit to get into it.  But, as the deeper I got, the more I wanted to know how it ended.  It ended rather unexpectedly.  I found that it was very interesting to see what kind of books he reads.  The main character was quite cynical and the book was dark.  It was the yuckiness of man.  There was little hope in the book.  It reminded me of The Stranger by Albert Camus, though not nearly as dark and hopeless.  These characters still lived their lives, though seemingly without a purpose.  God is nowhere to be found.  No mention.  No acknowledgement.  But, the writing was excellent.
I have read and been told that when we create as humans, we reflect God.  He gives us the ability to create.  P.D. James has created character with depth and heart, albeit ones who rage against God (Psalm 2) by taking him out of the picture.  Her writing is descriptive and skillful.  God has gifted P.D. James as a writer, that is certain in my mind.

But, I have no desire to read another book of hers.  Isn't that strange?  It is not her writing that makes me reluctant.  It is subject matter and the characters.  I know the world is full of sin.  I struggle to make sense of it sometimes.  When I hear stories from friends about what people have done and how they've treated one another, my heart deeply grieves.  In the world I live in, the people aren't that way.  For many years, I lived in a Christian bubble.  Everyone I knew closely was a Christian.  It wasn't that I intentionally sought for my life to be this way--simply that it was this way.  Then, we moved here.  

My world changed.  I met more folks who weren't believers than were.  We became a part of a church that wasn't a community.  Well, I suppose it was.  But, it's the modern idea of community (where people come to church Sunday morning and then leave and live their own lives the rest of the week) and not the one that we dearly needed without family around us here.   So, the people who were my friends and who I talked to most frequently the first few years were folks who once went to church and no longer went, or folks who had never gone to begin with.  That gradually changed as I joined a Bible study became involved in a homeschooling group, and then as we found a church community which has become a family to us.  My husband on the other hand, has found one or two people in the five years he has worked where he does who are believers.  He is surrounded by people that don't believe in God.  The characters of P.D. James' books are the ones he knows.  

Once when I was particularly troubled by a story a friend shared with me, I asked my husband why I was different than the people in the story.  He reminded me that Christ has given me a new heart.  Without Christ's work in my life and heart, I would be much like the people in the story I read.  I was thankful that he pointed this out to me and it often come to my mind.  Sometimes when we've been a Christian for many years, we may find ourselves in a valley and wonder what on earth God is doing with us.  He's doing quite a lot, really.

How do we know we are Christians?  I think the truth is found in the Scripture.  
1 John 4:7-16, NIV 
7Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

It is our love that sets us apart.  It is that love that I longed for in the lives of the characters in P.D. James' book.  Sometimes it feels like more often than not, I do not recommend the Christian fiction books I read.  I find a few here and there which I love, but often I wish for more in what I read.  I have spoken with friends who have chosen to read secular fiction instead of Christian fiction.  

Sometimes I think it is good to be reminded of the difference that Christ makes in our lives and hearts.  What we read can bring this to mind.  But, if that is all we read, I think it is dangerous.  For we need to be reminded not  just of the depravity of man, but also of that which reflects our Creator.

I am looking forward to reading a book that is on its way.  Paul David Tripp has written a book titled Broke-Down House.  Here is a video which describes this book:

I thought Paul David Tripp's words in the video were good food for thought.  I'm looking forward to reading the book and reflecting on this world we live in.

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