Thursday, April 14, 2005

Paring Down the Reading List: A Clarification

Anne has a thoughtful post regarding her (and our) responses to issues within the Christian community (being a godly spouse, education of children, etc.). You can read it here, and part of it is quoted below:

"I'm also a perfectionist. I'm avoiding reading some Christian materials that I know will cause me to think 'aha- that's the best book in the world' or 'that's the right way to look at this subject!' Because then I'll jump wholeheartedly on the bandwagon, all gung-ho in trying to live up to some book. And then I'll fail. And then I'll get discouraged and beat myself up."

I am really glad she brought this up, because first, I agree with her; second, it gives me an opportunity to expound on my own views about books and other Christian media.

Every Tuesday for the past three weeks, as you know, Molly, Jenna and I (and some new compatriots, Sal and Karen) have been reviewing Created to Be His Help Meet by Debi Pearl (see the two posts below for links). In my first review I told you guys that this kind of endorsement is unusual for me:

"I am not even finished with the book yet, and already it has had a tremendous impact on my life. I don't say that lightly; I hardly read books anymore, honestly, except for the Bible. But I see myself in the stories she presents and in the warnings she issues to young wives."

Look, I love to read; I always have. But Anne's points are so important: what is the fruit of the reading? How am I affected by reading or hearing this (e.g., does it provoke me to love and good works, hope in Jesus, or to anxiety and depression, or an erroneous understanding of the Scripture?)

I believe that Christian culture in America is inundated in general with books and new teachings ad nauseam. To be quite honest with you, the book/teacher crazes that rip through Christendom like wildfire often concern and even sicken me; it seems that everyone is always jumping on some bandwagon being popularized by a (usually suspect, fluffy, and ear-tickling) man or woman.

I used to be a voracious reader of both non-fiction and novels, and this post is not meant to criticize or condemn anyone who still is (though I encourage you to be very discerning in what you read). I still read all the time, but I am usually reading

1- The Bible
2- Blogs or news online
3- Some non-fiction relevant to the Christian life that I honestly think is worth my time or feel led to read by the Holy Spirit
4- A bit of Austen now and then (or the equivalent, like Dickens' Bleak House).

PLEASE DO NOT HEAR ME SAYING THAT READING ANYTHING OTHER THAN THE BIBLE IS WRONG. The only dictum that I think applies to all of us who are disciples of Jesus is this: prayerfully consider whether your reading and listening is Spirit-led and is leading you to know Jesus better, or if it's basically just entertainment, a massive waste of time, or false doctrine. (NB: Entertainment is not wrong, it's just something to watch ourselves about. It's like kudzu--it can take over in no time, and its worth is debatable!)

In reading Debi's book, I was doing something a little unusual (I rarely read Christian "teachers'" books, preferring to read a few trusted sources). In reviewing her book one day a week, I am communicating to you just how singular a book I believe it is, and as Molly pointed out, one of the things that makes it different from the norm is its consistent steering of the reader to Scripture.

I believe that sitting down with this book is like having a nice, long conversation with the "Titus 2 Lady" who is missing from most of our lives. You'll get an earful about what she's seen women do wrong over the years that caused them to lose their husbands' hearts, or even just not live the joy-filled lives they could have had with their husbands. She freely admits there are many times she has screwed up: it's not about perfection here (or I would already have given up--as I said in the comments, I messed up last night, not being as respectful to Ryan as I should have been!).

It's about practicing behavior that is clearly laid out in the Word as God's will for us as wives, and by the power of the Spirit, making that behavior a habit that takes residence in our heart over time.

Part of my insistence on spotlighting it, too, is that I am experiencing things in my marriage that I had longed to--even been desperate to--and what I desired had eluded me. Debi held up a mirror (the Word and her own observations of others through the years) and showed me myself, through Scripture. Simple but powerful.

I hope that is clearer than dried mud on a windshield.

Anne, I want you to know that I agree with every principle you brought up, and normally I wouldn't take so much time on something a person wrote. (And I know your post was about much more than my piddly reviews.) But I think that in this exceptional case, the wake-up call to younger women from an older woman is worth the horn tootin'. :)

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