One of my areas of least self-control can be found in my relationship with books. Sometime in the last few years my purchasing speed far surpassed my reading speed, and our entire-wall bookshelf, containing my rapidly growing library like a poorly engineered dam, is nearly exploding after 3 years.
This fetish for books wasn’t always there though. In school I read books just carefully enough to answer the questions I anticipated on upcoming quizzes rather than allowing myself to get lost in these captivating narratives. That would all change the time one of our teachers assigned to us a fiction book, and then informed us the author would be coming to visit our class. It was a story laden with hidden meanings, a well-written tapestry of symbolism. As the author calmly took his seat in front of the classroom, each of us fired questions at him about what “this” or “that” meant. Some of the time he chose to divulge hidden meanings, other times he would simply smirk and respond, “What do you think?”
Although I left that day with fewer answers to my questions than I had hoped, that experience set a high water mark and dwarfed the vast majority of books I read throughout my childhood. The book I had been assigned was no longer written by some distant man or woman dead 100 years ago, with no interest for me in my small private school in Texas. With this specific book, the author came to meet me. He asked my name, knew what grade I was in, and took the time to dialogue with me about my burning questions.
One of the most important pieces of advice I could give someone approaching Scripture is: read it with the Author. There are plenty of motivational leadership books, inspiring true stories, and exciting fiction novels out there, but the Bible is unique in that the words are alive and the Author is present. His words are Spirit and they are life, and the Author of the text is anxious to engage with you as you read His Word. When we choose to spend the majority of our time in Scripture without so much as a nod to the Author, we run the risk of subconsciously treating it like any other book we grab off the shelf.
A few years ago I adopted a deceivingly simple, yet potent prayer I recommend praying as you open your Bible to read, “Holy Spirit, I don’t want to read this book alone. I know that You are present, and You love to speak to me. Would You read this with me and speak to me as I do?” The purpose of a prayer like this is not to give God permission to speak, but to remind us that He is present and eager to speak. It serves to shake us out of a one-dimensional rut in our reading, where the deepest we venture in Scripture is the depth of our own intellect.
There are endless depths in Scripture available to us, but the key isn’t finding a better translation, a better concordance, a better commentary, a comfier chair, or even a finer cup of coffee (important as they all are); the key is reading with the Author.