Relearning to Read
When was the last time you sat down and read a book? I don’t mean a pamphlet or blog post, or an article about a book. I mean a binding-and-cover, 100-plus page, physical book. No screens, just printed text. It seems like every day it gets harder and harder to find even a measly few minutes of spare time to even eat, let alone sit down for an hour of quiet to read. With our busy lives, it’s easy to prioritize other things over something as time-consuming as reading a book. Work, family, movies, friends, catching up on our favorite TV shows. It seems like there’s always something to occupy our time. Many of us can’t even get to sleep without something going in the background. The quiet is deafening. This is because our society has conditioned us against doing one thing for more than a few minutes. From the time we wake up, we are bombarded by every form of communication and entertainment that our brains can handle, until we fall asleep again at night. In more recent years, all of this has been whittled down to bytes and bits, so that reading a headline barely keeps our attention before we move to the next thing. So in light of all that we take in every day, it is extremely difficult to put it all aside, and sit quietly for 30-60 minutes at a time to just read. I know that when I try to do this, it is very hard to quiet my mind about all of the things that I could or should be doing instead. It’s an exercise, in a sense. I have to keep reminding myself to just be quiet, physically and mentally. Not only that, but we have to work against our conditioning to just move to the next piece of news or entertainment. How can I be expected to focus on one thing for even more than a few minutes? It certainly does take some practice. But as the saying goes, you make time for things you want to do, and it does take some strategizing. Here are a few things that help me when trying to set aside time to read, and then actually do it: - Set aside a time to read. Start small, even ten minutes. Set an alarm if you have to, and stick to it. Treat this “appointment” as a real person if you have to.
- Use noise cancelling headphones to block out distractions, or even turn on music if you can focus better that way. Maybe you’re the type of person who “studies” better with background noise. I know I am.
- Start with something you really enjoy reading; a favorite book perhaps. You’ll be less likely to quit if the going gets tough, if you really want to find out what happens next.
- Get your family or friends involved. If you set aside a block of time for your family to just sit and read quietly, it might be easier to block out the time. Or start a book reading club with friends, meeting once a month to discuss.
More specifically, this should especially apply to us as Christians. The fact that society has conditioned us against reading is especially telling as to Satan’s influences, as our primary means of spiritual growth and nourishment comes from a book. The Scriptures themselves lay out the power and importance of God’s words written for us. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Because God has spoken to us by means of the Scriptures, it is vitally important that we spend time digesting its wisdom and being sharpened by its instruction. I realize it’s easier said than done, but I think it’s one of the Christian’s most fundamental and important skills (yes, skill) to know how to quiet yourself and spend time reading the Bible. Allowing ourselves to be fed from the Scriptures is key to living in a world such as ours, and neglecting this will soon have us starving.