Last year for Lent, I gave up reading. I didn’t allow myself to read anything but the Bible, and it was a disaster. Let me explain why I gave up reading in the first place: I love to read, giving up reading would be a true sacrifice, and my spiritual crush at the time, Lauren F. Winner (author of Girl Meets God), gave up reading for Lent one year too. So, following in her footsteps (geeking out in the thought that this would make me more like her), I thought I’d do the same.
I was not prepared for how difficult it would be. I’m the kind of person who carries around a book in her purse to whip out when I have down time in the grocery line. I’m the kind of person who would just read all day on a Saturday if I had nothing else to do. I’m the kind of person who brings a book to church, thinking that if I don’t like the sermon, I could read my book. I’ve never actually done that, but I still keep a book handy in the pew.
During Lent, I was supposed to fill my time by reading the Bible, and living on the Word of God. And to my surprise, I couldn’t do it. I ended up filling my time with anything other than reading my Bible: watching TV, doing crossword puzzles, reorganizing my closet, and even one time deciding to deep clean my bathroom. I started to recognize Satan’s role in my unwillingness to read God’s word, but I felt powerless against Him.
I did learn quite a lot from that experiment, unsuccessful though it was. I realized that I used reading as a crutch, an excuse not to talk to people, a way to fill my time, not allowing me to reflect or think my own thoughts. I would go straight from one book to the next without any reflection time.
I couldn’t wait for Easter to come, so I could read the next spiritual memoir or the historical fiction books I’m so fond of. But to my surprise, I didn’t want to read. Even though I filled much of my time with other distractions, I realized that I had filled it with bits of praying and scripture too. I had learned to fill my time waiting in the grocery line praying for a friend. I sat for a while on a Saturday, just thinking my thoughts. I took my Bible reading time more seriously.
I still read a lot, but now I read more purposefully. I only read books that I want to read, and not those that I think I should read. I take time to review the books I’ve read, and appreciate my book club even more as a place to learn from the others. Reading is no longer something I do to fill the time, but something I do to grow.