On Being Well Read vs. Reading Well & Slowness of Character Formation.

I love my reading friends. They keep my mind going, my heart turning back to Jesus over and over, and they continue to add to the stack of books beside my bed. One such friend added another suggestion this morning and I was a tad bit slower to accept the invitation to this book than I usually am. Why? Because I stumbled on an article about reading in the 2016 Circe Magazine. The particular piece was an interview between David Kern and Wes Callahan. I want to give you a quick overview of the quotes that made it into my commonplace and where Wes’ thoughts led my own.

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First thought: “Remember, we’re trying to form habits and ultimately, character.” 

Mystie does a great job of explaining the purpose of classical education, or any true education at all, in a series of blogposts on the top at Simply Convivial. In summary, the pursue of classical education is virtue in the student. For the more modernly versed Christian, the purpose of education should lead to Christ-likeness, holiness. 

In context, Wes was saying that accomplishing the task of reading the book itself is never the point. Since Christ-likeness is the goal of our reading we can and should read slowly.  Today this meant me putting a new book on hold so I can get through my current read a little slower, making better use of the book and the common grace God is and can show me through it.

When I think of being well read I often think about the vast quantity of books one has read to attain that description. But I realize that being well read means you must have read well, and you kind of can’t do that without reading slowly.

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Second thought: “Finally, begin and end your reading time with prayer, asking the Lord for light and wisdom in application. Pray that you will be a doer and not a hearer only. ..Set your reading apart (‘sanctify’ it) from the rest of your day by prayer and silence.” 

All I can say is, this was deeply convicting. Because I truly enjoy reading so much it’s almost never a drudgery for me. I love it so much that sometimes I selfishly steal away too much time for it when I really should be on my hands and knees playing cars with the boys or preparing dinner for my family.

All that being said, I love it so much that I am quick to do it and slow to remember what a holy act anything in life is when offered up to the Lord as worship and thanksgiving to Him. Worship and thanksgiving go together so much. We worship through our thanksgiving. I am deeply thankful that God gave me, Lexy, a mind that delights in the written Word of Christ, the Bible, which then flows out and informs all other reading and learning I do in my life. This delight in knowledge isn’t bad. No way! Instead, it’s the Holy Spirit’s prompting in my heart challenging me to grow in humility as I grow in knowledge, and, prayerfully and hopefully, Christ-likeness. But what has to happen for this to be accomplished?

A moment of prayer to cast myself of the mercies of God, the only one able to bring my life, thoughts, heart, and actions into line with anything knowledge I received from a book, be it a psalm by King David,  Anne of Green Gables, a Dickinson poem, or an essay by Dillard written at her creekside.

At the very beginning of the article Wes was answering a question about how to make time for growing your mind when there are so many more pressing things calling for our attention. He said we must begin our days with the practice of prayer. Prayer is of utmost importance in the life of a believer because it helps us orient our days. He said if we can practice this orientation properly, it will help us prioritize everything else in our lives and days, including the call to steward our mind and thoughts as believers.

Fascinating, right?

All this got me to thinking and asking one question in regards to schooling: am I really ok that we may at one time or another only make it through a quarter of the day’s lesson plan, or the years schedule, if more Christ-likeness is formed in the hearts of my children? Will Christ-likeness be enough? Or will I seek satisfaction in crossing things off my to-do list?

Even more mundane, am I ok if the kitchen table is slathered in sticky peanut butter, but big brother has finally learned to make sandwiches for family members and can serve others in this way? Can I rest content if my toddler runs away with pants on backwards, and a shirt inside out if he’s now growing in responsibility and dressing himself so my hands are free to help other’s smaller than him? Are we able to thank our children for their acts of service, even if they aren’t executed in the practical ways we would execute them? Growing and learning and giving grace in these seasons is definitely not black and white, neat and tidy, easy and quick. Are we ok with the slowness required of the process of educating the heart in a way that, by the work of the Spirit alone, will produce a godly character? Or are we rushing things for the fear of man? I’m reminded of Charlotte Mason’s thoughts on the topic of habit training out of fear of man versus a true desire for character:

“…’What will people say? what will people think? how will it look?’ and the children grow up with habits of seeming, and not to of being; they are content to appear well-dressed, well-mannered, and well-intentioned to outsiders, with very little effort after beauty, order, and goodness at home, and in each other’s eyes.” Volume 1, pg. 56

Are we allowing the time to develop the goodness, order, and beauty that comes in to the heart after the knowledge of God is recognized in some connection and assimilation of information learned? Do we seek to see this in each others eyes and hearts? Or are we content with orderly homes, outwardly obedient children, but disordered hearts and thoughts?

In Christ

 

 

 

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