Have you ever asked yourself why you read?
Maybe you love a good mystery simply for the delicious spine-tingling suspense, or a horror story for the sheer terror the villain evokes. Perhaps you enjoy a love story that makes you feel all warm inside. You might be a reader whose strong intellect craves material that makes you think or reason through a situation.
I dare say, most of us read first and foremost for enjoyment or to glean information. Only students read because they have to in order to pass the test or write the paper.
Reading can take us to faraway places we may never go to experience situations we may never encounter in real time. Because of this delightful phenomenon, some stories, whether fiction or nonfiction, tend to linger in our memories. For me, one such account told of the first blind person, Erik Weihenmayer, who reached the summit of Mount Everest on May 25, 2001. There’s just something about mastering a mountain, especially without vision, that makes me sit up and take notice. I’m fully engaged with any plot that details the rigors and dangers of such a challenge. Now, I would never undertake such a climb in reality (I rarely hike), but I enjoy doing so vicariously through a story character, real or imagined. And I can do so while curled up in bed or in front of a cozy fire while sipping tea.
Yes, reading is one of the supreme pleasures of life. You avid readers understand this.
On the other side of the coin, as a writer of both fiction and nonfiction, I often ponder where my responsibility begins and ends with readers. Yes, I want to produce a story that keeps the reader turning pages. Yet, as a Christian writer who serves the King of Kings, is that where my job ends?
I don’t think so. Personally, I feel compelled through my writings to build awareness and move to action. In the course of the reading, I want the reader to identify with a scripture, an insight, a character, or a situation in a way that invites change, either small or great. I also want to write words that heal hurting hearts.
I read. A lot. In order to write effectively, one must read voraciously.
In my book travels, I’ve read some works, even Christian books, that amount to little more than entertainment. I’m left with nothing to grapple with that stimulates personal growth. These are often books that do well, even hit the bestseller’s list. I wager a guess it’s because they require so little of the reader.
May I challenge you—both readers and writers alike?
Get on your face before God and ask Him to guide you in your choice of reading material. Refuse to settle for fluff, for books that merely entertain without moving you toward a decision or out of your comfort zone and toward action. Two such novels in my recent reading history are Scared and Priceless by Tom Davis, founder of Children’s HopeChest. Not only are these works great fiction, but they detail the plight of African orphans and trafficked victims. Highly recommended, by the way!
God loves books. If He didn’t, He wouldn’t have authored the Bible. Since His desire is to transform us into the image of Christ, He wants us to choose reading material (and write words) that requires something of us, that asks for more than a fluttery heart or a good time or even gained knowledge. He delights in words that bring life and healing.
So should we.