Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Slow Reader

I’ve often found myself lamenting that I am a slow reader. I don’t plow through a book but rather saunter along in it. And I suppose I’ve thought of that pace as inferior and a sign of a sluggish mind.

However, this morning, I thought about being a slow reader from a different perspective. I received an email from a friend who is reading my book, Picturing the Face of Jesus. She stopped, in the middle of reading it and spending time with God, to tell me about an experience she had.

She said that she was reading my book “very slowly, a page or two at a time” and read the section in The Face of Welcome about Jesus welcoming everyone—children, misfits, and all.” Suddenly, she saw in her mind a picture of Jesus welcoming a host of hurting people, all with a myriad of illnesses, emotional pain and mental disorders. It was a beautiful, profound, healing picture, and one that touched her heart.

Now, I am fairly certain that my friend would have missed that experience with Jesus had she been in a hurry. Being a slow reader paid off.

So, I’d like to champion the virtues of being a slow reader and offer a few tips on how, by doing so, you can take far more into your heart. This applies to reading any book, but especially the Bible or books that nurture you spiritually.

1. Don’t cram yourself till your stuffed: When you read a chapter in a book, approach it like you are enjoying a fine meal with several courses. Don’t cram yourself on the appetizers! Always leave room for the dessert! In other words, take the chapter in by sections. If you are full after the first section, then take a break. Come back to it later. In Picturing the Face of Jesus, each chapter begins with an exercise of meditating on an image of Jesus. It may be enough to stop after the meditation and savor it before you move into the rest of the chapter.

2. Read from your heart: As you read slowly, don’t merely “think” your way through the paragraph, but read it from your heart, engaging your affections, deliberating on it’s meaning. Much of what we receive spiritually never makes it past our heads. As my mentor, Dr. Terry Wardle says, “We are over informed and under transformed.” Let the message of what you are reading sink into your deeper soul.

3. Stop and ponder what arrests your attention: So often, because we have an unnecessary goal of “getting through” something we are reading (as if there is a prize at the end for finishing), we don’t stop and ponder the ideas or questions that surface as we read. By doing so, we miss the Spirit speaking to us, whispering to our hearts, when something we read piques our interest or raises pivotal questions. When you find a statement or story that resonates, stop and ponder it; ask God to tell you more about what it means for you.

4. Return to passages or paragraphs, again and again: In the past several years, I have found myself staying put in a passage of Scripture for a week or more, if I feel that God has something for me in it. The same goes with books you read. Don’t hesitate to re-read portions that speak to you, or stay put when you sense that something is there but aren’t sure what.

I hope these suggests help you engage more richly with what you are reading and engage more deeply with God. And, by the way, don't apologize for being a slow reader!

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