I love to read and I love to write. However, I have found little time to do either since graduating from seminary. The demands of pastoral ministry have made it difficult to carve out time for reading and writing beyond the weekly sermons and lessons. Of course, the challenge of time is not unique to pastoral ministry. Many of us would lament the fact that there are more things to do than there is time to do them. Or maybe we stretch ourselves beyond our means because we subconsciously (or more explicitly for some) believe that things just don’t get done unless we are the ones who do it. In any case, it is easy to let go of the least immediate practices and commitments when we are pressed for time. So I have read little and wrote even less. And as a result, I had lost a taste for both activities until recently.
It was around the time of the new year that I decided to recommit myself to reading outside of sermon preparation. I wanted to reinvigorate my appetite for reading good books because I have been shaped and influenced by so many in the past. Tozer gave me a bigger vision of God. Carson taught me about Paul’s prayers and how they should inform my own prayers. Stott helped me think about mission. Augustine helped me think about sin and its effects. I stand on the shoulders of believers who have gone before me and I would not have a chance to learn from them if it were not for their writings. Good books challenge us to think deeply about our lives, the world, and what matters most. It is the reason why reading is so important.
But where do I begin? How do I jump start my love for reading when I’m out of reading shape? The answer to these questions may surprise you given the list of authors that I just mentioned. I have gained a new hunger for books by reading fiction. Fiction? Don’t we read fiction to help us escape the real world? Isn’t fiction purely a means of entertainment? As Paul would say, by no means! There are so many valuable things about reading fiction. Fictional stories and worlds are filled with lessons and values that teach us many things about life in this world. They can also challenge us to think beyond this world. And if you fight the right book or series, they are just plain fun to read. In fact, fiction is so much fun to read that it will increase your appetite for reading in general. This is how I have gained a renewed passion for reading.
Last month I finished reading The Children of Hurin by J.R.R. Tolkien and I loved every page of it. Of course, I am a huge Tolkien fan so he can hardly do any wrong in my eyes when it comes to fictional tales. The world of Middle-earth was brilliantly constructed. The Children of Hurin is set in Middle-earth at a time previous to the Lord of the Rings. It is a tragic tale about good, evil, bravery, and pride. Once I started it, I could not put it down until I had plowed through the book in just a few weeks. At the end of a good fictional tale, you are either left wanting more or asking the question of what is next. I went on the hunt for the next good story. I remembered that the Harry Potter series was sitting on our bookshelf in the living room. I have not read any of the books despite having seen all of the movies. So I have embarked on a journey through London and the wizarding world and I am happy to say that I am halfway through the fourth book after about a month. The books are filled with so many more details than the movies. I also love this particular tale of good versus evil, friendship versus fear, and love-inspired loyalty versus forced servitude. It is likely to become one of my favorite fictional series.
The magical worlds of the Children of Hurin and Harry Potter have been a benefit to me in several ways. However, there are two results that I think are the most important. First, they have given me a desire to read more in general. As a result, I recently began books on preaching, church history, and prayer. I find that I read more as I enjoy reading. Nonfiction can sometimes be laborious depending on what we are reading. We often read fiction because it is fun and it allows us to exercise our imagination. Fiction can renew our joy for reading and therefore it can give us a renewed desire for reading nonfiction as well. Second, these fictional worlds have given me a desire to write more. Reading and writing go hand in hand. Good writers are people who are good readers as well. I have found that reading stimulates the thought processes that lead to writing.
If you love to read or write but have little motivation to do so, let me encourage you to find a good work of fiction and immerse yourself in its world. You may just find that the journey into another realm will inspire your thoughts and desires in this realm.