I love books. When I start reading I become so absorbed that I may not even hear you calling my name.
It used to be a lot worse. I was a real book addict! I read so much I almost lived in my books and stories.
I would lock myself in the bathroom to read undisturbed for hours. I did the ironing and washed the dishes with a book propped up in front of me. I walked out, blindly feeling my way along, to gather the eggs and feed the chickens while reading. I never did manage to read while milking the goats, but I did read while changing a diaper. My book was on top of my schoolwork until I heard mom coming up to check on me, and then it quietly and quickly disappeared under the desk.
If I would have been reading my Bible, or encouraging non-fictional books, this would not have been such a big problem. Quite probably I would have read things to encourage me to not read so much! But I was only reading romantic novels. And when I wasn’t reading, I needed something to keep on living so I made little (or big) twists to the story, with myself as the heroine.
The story was, for me, reality. ‘Real reality’ was something that I endured in between. I had my very own personalized Prince Charming that was sort of the same in every story. And I half expected him to show up around every corner. It even went so far that I couldn’t always tell if something had really happened or if I had imagined it (usually, I could tell that it was reality if I wasn’t the heroine and if it wasn’t something terribly romantic). When someone interrupted me, which is very likely being a middle child in a family of 7 children, I became very irritated and annoyed. I was always a bit dazed and depressed when coming ‘back’. My imagination is quite lively, and combined with a great love for reading that can be exciting and good. But by reading only romantic novels to feed my fancies, I misused it.
Reading is good. It can enrich your life, teach you invaluable lessons, and it is just plain fun! But, like most good things, you can also have too much of it. And reading all the time is too much. When I noticed that I almost needed a book to stay alive, I realized I had most definitely reached that point! I tried justifying myself because all of these books were endorsed by people I respected and loved, but the Bible made a good point against that argument:
“All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”
1 Corinthians 6:12
Reading is most certainly lawful. But the moment I let myself be brought under its power, it became a sin for me. Christ wants to be the power over my life. Through Him, I can be free from anything else that threatens to have power over me, even the power of a good story.
Here are four ways I’m working on not being so drunk on books.
1. Eliminate “easy reading” books and apps.
There are some things I can do to help myself not get trapped in a story. Recently, I went through my bookshelf and got rid of some meaningless novels. And I also got rid of the Kindle app on my phone.
2. Set aside specific time to read.
Sometimes, I make rules for myself about reading times and ask for the people closest to me to keep me to those times. I have come to accept that if I read a new fiction book, I have to make sure to do it in a time where I know I’ll have time to read (car trip, vacation, airplane…). I can read Pride and Prejudice, Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Prairie and Stepping Heavenward without getting addicted since I’ve read them so often I almost have them memorized.
3. Create genre boundaries for myself.
I now keep to reading non-fiction books. That way I don’t get trapped in a story. Some of my latest favorites are Grace for the Good Girl, One Thousand Gifts, A Million Little Ways, and Loving the Little Years. And when I want stories, I read the Old Testament–plenty of good stories to be had there! I also love to read missionary biographies, like the ‘Heroes of the Faith’ series about Gladys Aylward, Amy Carmichael, David Livingstone, Brother Andrew and so many more!
4. Think about people outside the story.
It always relieves me to be freed from a time of over-reading. I have fewer headaches and more time for everything and everyone else. Now that I have children, I’ve begun to see my reading through their eyes. Do I really want them to think a book is more important than their little needs and their little smiles? And of course, I don’t want my husband coming home to a messy house because I was reading instead of cleaning.
It doesn’t happen in one day, and my struggles are not magically over. This isn’t the first time I’ve tried to discipline myself to read less and stop fantasizing all the time. But God always has enough grace for me, in whatever season I am. He’s always right there with me, helping me and nudging me to make the right decisions. And I’m honoring Him when I can enjoy the gift of a book without making it an idol.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things.”
Do you find yourself trapped in a story sometimes? What are some ways you’ve used to avoid story-grip? What are some of your favorite books?
Naomi is married to Mike, who is a computer programmer, and mom to two little guys. She is passionate about writing, healthy living, and finding God in the everyday moments. She lives in Belgium and blogs at Omily.me.
Photo Credit: Jenni Marie Photography