-Oswald Chambers, Approved Unto God
On the front wall of every elementary classroom I ever taught in I posted the slogan, "Readers are Leaders." For seven years of my life I enjoyed the immense privilege of working as a teacher of elementary school students. Reading was a high priority in my classroom. I did everything I could to encourage my students to read. I read books aloud to them, I talked with them about books that I was reading, I celebrated the books they were reading... I modeled for them a love of reading. (It was easy, because I love to read.) I told my students that if they ever had a spare moment in the classroom I wanted them to do one of three things--they could either (1) Read, (2) Read, or (3) Read. (Fourth graders love this kind of stuff.) I believed that reading would make my students better readers, better writers, better communicators and ultimately, influential people (leaders).
As a Christ follower, reading plays an important role in my spiritual formation and growth. I love reading the Bible, books about the Bible and books about God's presence and work in and through the lives of people around the world. My reading habit goes beyond the "religious" genre. I read poetry, fiction, memoir, history, philosophy, biography and sometimes (but not often enough) I even read the directions. As a Christian, I read so I can grow in Lord and so I can help others along the way in their spiritual journey with Jesus.
Reading is a good thing and it is important, but Oswald Chambers reminds me that for a Christ follower there is something more important--the Holy Spirit. Reading feeds the mind, but the Holy Spirit feeds and guides the heart. The life of the mind, with all of its search for truth, analysis of facts, diverse viewpoints, critical thinking and intellectual creativity is delightful, but is subsidiary to the life of the heart. Reading, learning and knowing are good (and from God), but "... 'the need to receive, recognize, and rely on the Holy Spirit' is before all else." I like what Paul says in Ephesians 4:30 regarding the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian:
"His [God's] Holy Spirit, moving and breathing in you, is the most intimate part of your life, making you fit for himself." (MSG)
As a Christian read all you can, but always keep before you the question, "Why do I read?" Do you read to acquire knowledge?... to gain power? (It has been said that "knowledge is power.") Do you read to become more Christlike? Do you read to gain wisdom? Do you read with your heart in mind? The writer in Proverbs 4:23 refers to the heart (not the mind) as the "wellspring of life."
Why do you read? Do you read to "lead" or to be "led"? As Christians, I believe that we are called to do both. In the life of the mind and in the life of the heart we are to rely on the Holy Spirit "before all else," allowing God to make us "fit for Himself."
I still like the slogan, "Readers are Leaders," but thanks to Oswald Chambers I have a new slogan to add to the wall of my classroom and/or office:
"It is impossible to read too much, but always keep before you why you read."