You’ll Never Graduate
I can still remember when I earned my final degree. I walked across the stage, accepted my diploma, shook hands with a bunch of people I didn’t know, walked off the stage and vowed never to read another book again. If I ever saw a list of required reading, it would be too soon.
As far as I was concerned, my education was complete. I was done. I had graduated, and that was that. The end. No more.
Famous last words.
I read more than I ever read while I was in school. When I was reading for class, I had someone telling me “read these books and only these books”. Now, everyone I meet has a suggestion of some book I need to read. My good friends, the people in my life who know me best, always bring me books when we get together. I have stacks of books in my study, on my bedside table, I have 3 or 4 different stacks around my church office – each for a different project – and, of course, miles and miles of book cases.
“Have you read all of these books,” people will ask when they walk into my office. “Most of them,” I’ll answer. “At least, the ones worth reading.”
Here was my first discovery on my reading journey. Not every book that’s been printed is worth reading. For a long time, I thought if I started a book that I had to finish the book. I got over that. I’m to the point in my life where I don’t waste time, and I certainly don’t allow anyone else to waste my time. A poorly written book – poor grammar, incoherent arguments, and lazy thinking – gives me permission to draw a big “X” on the page where I stopped. I usually write a sentence or two about why I stopped reading, but then, I close the book and that’s that.
Yes, I have my share of E-books. I really thought E-books were going to be the thing. I love having “all of my books with me all of the time,” but I wasn’t pleased with the reading experience. I love the feel of real book. I love the texture of its pages and the weight of the book in my hands. I missed the experience of reading a book. Sliding my fingers across the screen didn’t do it for me.
The other frustration I had is you can’t argue with an E-book. Well, not like you can argue with a paper book. Good luck if you ever try to read a book after I do. Entire pages will be crossed out. Paragraphs will be highlighted with different colors – one of agree, another for disagree and one more for “not sure yet.” I’ll respond to the writer in the margins. I’ll write more on some pages than the author does.
And I’ll be able to find it all again. You can’t do that in an E-book. The advertisers will tell you that you can, but you really can’t. You can type a note here and there, but to engage, really engage with energy and vigor, you need a paper book.
No one interrupts you when you’re reading a paper book. Emails don’t chime. Messages don’t pop up. Nothing distracts you from the words on the paper in front of you. It’s just you and the text. The world will have to wait while you finish this next chapter.
Books call for a deeper thinking. Sure, I read a lot of blogs and other forms of social media. They may give you the temperature of the moment, but they don’t help you understand the weather. If you want to know about the weather, you’ll have to dive deeper. Our world is too complex, and our problems too challenging to be solved in 140 characters or less.
One of the challenges and most intriguing parts of being the pastor of a local church is you have to/get to be an expert on any number of subjects. A recent newspaper article noted that in the current opioid epidemic, many times a local pastor is the first one contacted. So, I’m reading up on addiction and how we ended up with this crisis in the first place, as well as what communities can do about it.
I’m reading about how technology is changing families and marriages. I’m reading about how self-worth can be changed or challenged by social media.
I’m reading about how to lead an organization through change and how millennials and Gen-Xers have different views of money and what that will mean for the future of local church finances.
I’m reading through the Bible, but this time, I’m reading a commentary with each book. This slows down the reading a little bit, but the depth of understanding has been expanded a hundred-fold.
I don’t watch TV as much as I used to. It’s not some big stand I’ve made. I just don’t have time anymore. I’m reading.
A submarine can go so fast it can’t hear its own sonar. These days, we’re living so fast we don’t have time to listen to our thoughts. Books allow you to slow down. They force you to think a complete thought all the way through. The words don’t stay on the page. They get in your mind and in your heart. They change the way you see things. They change the things you know.
I’m now deeply enrolled in the school of life. There’s a lot of required reading. I’ll never finish it all. I’ll never graduate.
None of us will.