We all know that words are never really just words. In the beginning, God forged the Universe with the breath of His Spirit and the Word. In that deep mystery of creation, everything of life and substance is swarming with words, upheld by the sovereign power of God. God then continued to communicate through words, revealing His character and Gospel through the Holy Scriptures over the course of centuries. And best of all, Christ Himself—the Word made Flesh—came to dwell with man. As the physical embodiment of an incorporeal God, Jesus showed us what the Father was like and fulfilled every word of God’s Law so that His death on our behalf could be counted as atonement for our sins. Words are important.
There are a few times in Scripture where God commands the Prophet to literally eat His words.1 I’ve always savored the image of eating the Word of God and letting its sweet comfort and bitter conviction mingle in my body, becoming part of the fabric of my flesh.
You are what you eat. You are what you read.
My Literary Diet
Excluding books that I read to my toddler or for school, I read eighty-seven books in 2018. You could say that I have a voracious appetite. Yet I begin to ask myself, “How many were worthwhile?” How many of those books spoke to my soul rather than my senses? How many left their mark on me because of their truth or goodness or beauty? Through my own subjective measure, I’d say about nine.
Ten percent. That’s like hoping that a couple salads here and there will mitigate the effects of eating Taco Bell for every other meal.
My particular weakness comes in the form of the YA novel. The sad part there is that I don’t even like most of them. Young Adult novels are the puberty of the literary world—ungainly, overwrought, pretentious. They have adult aspirations and themes but often lack the maturity to treat their themes with any depth. I read YA novels as a new teacher because I thought that I’d be able to have great conversations with my students about what they read outside of school. Yet this has rarely materialized. But I keep reading out of a nonsensical desire to keep up with a genre that is deteriorating in the face of modern socio-political agendas. The only concrete application I have for many of the books I read last year is that I will present alternatives to my own children when they are older.
Reading poor writing will produce poor thinking.
I want something better for myself. I want something better for my students. I want something better for my son.
To this end, I have resolved to be a better reader. Supporters of Classical Christian Education promote the concept multum non multa, which means, “much, not many.” Do a few things well rather than do everything you possibly can. I hope in my own reading journey to read more things that matter and to take the time to truly understand them. I have read so many “classics” just to be able to say that I’ve read them or to defend my reputation as “a reader.” But does it mean anything if I am not changed by them?
God has given mankind the gift of subcreation. We cannot weave reality with our words, but we can create worlds within the minds of our fellow Image Bearers. As I seek to bring my rebellious mind in subjection to the Word of God, I pray that Christ will conform my will and thoughts and desires to seek reading material that will promote my growth and sanctification.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.Philippians 4:8, ESV
1Jeremiah 15:16, Ezekiel 3:1-3, Revelation 10:9