Maybe in your heart, right now, you’re holding a first edition antiquarian book in one hand, and a handcrafted, personalized leather bookmark in the other, while wearing precision-custom reading glasses and resting your elbow on one of those white fur blankets that all the HGTV people have. Maybe in your heart you are a “reader.” And maybe that’s how you imagine your life as a “reader.”
But, maybe, in real life, you have a cheerio-covered floor, stained couch, and a schedule full of tasks. You have a shelf full of books, but no idea what’s inside them. You are a pretend reader.
Most of us want to read. Most of us don’t feel like we have time to read. But, everyone has time to pretend to read. I’ve sure done it.
We say to a new friend, “Oh, I love reading.” Dear Lord, please help me think of a title of a book I had to read in high school right now. It’s not that we’re dishonest. We really do love to read. We just…mostly haven’t in several decades?
We put in our Facebook profiles, “My hobbies are dining, playing with my children, and reading.” If anyone asks me what I’m reading right now, I will punch them and run.
We say to ourselves, “There’s nothing like kicking back with a good book.” If I had a dollar for every book I’ve bought but haven’t finished, my house would be completely coated in fur blankets.
We like the idea of reading, but we usually fold the corner on that page of our plans and fall back on pretending and dreaming as books stack up by the bed.
But pretending can turn to reading just about anywhere. Nowadays, I consume good books while waiting for my kids in the pick-up line at school, while I let my daughters get extra pruney fingers in the bathtub, while I wait for water to boil, or even while I sit in the middle of the ever-present heap of unfolded laundry.
We don’t have to pretend.
So, here are three reasons, from a former-pretender, to take a break from Netflix, push your clutter to the side, and lay on your laundry pile with a good book.
1. Reading Leads to Growing
You wouldn’t believe how much I didn’t know about Marco Polo before I read a biography on him. I only vaguely knew that he was remembered for history-type things and not just the name of a game I used to play in the pool with my little sister. And I also now know that chickens have about 300 taste buds after I read The Chicken Chick’s Guide to Backyard Chickens.
When we read, whether it’s “how-to’s” or biographies of people who did great things or even fictional characters living through historic (or fake) events, we grow. Our knowledge increases. Our perspective changes. Our ability to interact with the world around us expands. When we read, we are able to look at more people who are more different with more empathy than we would have been able to otherwise. Guys, we can care about poultry palettes. When we read, we learn and discover. We have new things to talk about and dream about that lead to fresh ideas and fresh understanding.
2. Reading Leads to Feeding
I recently got a text from a friend right after she gave birth to her stillborn daughter. It knocks the wind out of me every time I think of it.
I’ve had a few miscarriages, but, I’ve never gone through a labor to birth a child that wasn’t alive.
I once read something encouraging by someone who did, though. In Open Your Bible, Raechel Myers begins the book sharing the story of her stillborn, Evie Grace. She articulates her pain and spiritual struggle, and the healing power of God’s Word so beautifully, that not only did I share it with my friend, but I pretty much share it with anyone I know who is is going through a similar struggle.
And even when I don’t share those pages, I can share my love for those in similar circumstances by responding in the powerful way Raechel’s Christian community did. I read her testimony and grew from it in both empathy and understanding of how to care for people suffering loss.
If you read, you can feed. If you want to be able to teach people something, or lead a group, or manage a team, or help your household or build a relationship, you need to feed.
Reading books gives us all kinds of little treasures we can pass on to people in need.
3. Reading Leads to Resting
When I read to rest, I usually grab a comedian’s memoir or a novel that won a bunch of awards, or whatever my friends loved so much, they had to tell me about it.
Maybe comedy isn’t your thing. My husband, for some reason, likes to read epic fantasy books that involve fake worlds with fake creatures and thousands of millions of pages and words that aren’t real words, but I love him anyway.
Some weirdos find rest by reading about math, or numbers, or math-related counting things, and that’s probably fine. Do I sound judgey? I’m sorry. To each his own.
My point is, resting reading looks different for different people. So, what should you read to rest? Read whatever helps you calm down your soul. In the past, I’ve rested by reading Tim Keller’s The Prodigal God. Other times, it’s been Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan or The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.
Whatever it is that makes you feel restful, read it. Bring it along and look for the spare slivers of life—in line at the world’s slowest pharmacy, or waiting on your Starbucks, or passing the time while your new leather bookmark is handcrafted and personalized.
Please don’t pretend. Your soul, your children, your friends, and all the chickens of the world need you to be a “reader.”