Drunk On Books
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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
Been there, done that 🙂 Thanks!
Wow… this was so, SO good! Your transparency was refreshing and your tips were very useful. I remember loving those same biographies when I was a teenager, too. So that was a blast from the past.
I personally generally restrict myself to a couple chapters at a time when I’m reading, fiction or non-fiction. I’ll read a couple chapters, and then go do something else for a while (play with the kids, get housework done, etc.) before I come back to read some more. I have to practice the same discipline with my writing, too. It really helps things around here go smoother. I also get a lot more from the book when I read it in manageable bites like that rather than huge swallows! 🙂
Good timing! I’ve been binging lately on romantic fiction and I needed some motivation to break free. I guess sometimes I just want some easy-reading so I can kind of shut off my brain. Having a Kindle is a little bit of a temptation since there are some freebies online, but then again there are plenty of Christian freebies, too! Just best to avoid the “fiction” category.
I’ve decided that since it’s Lent I’m going to try to do some Easter readings. I just downloaded a free devotional guide from Amazon.
In general I like biographies too, missionary and otherwise. One of my favorites is Hudson Taylor! And of course, Elisabeth Elliot’s books.
So glad it came at a good time for you, Elizabeth! I get you in the wanting to have something where you can shut your brain off! Those are the times I’m mostly tempted to drown myself in a novel and not deal with my own life.
I think since those are the moments I read so much, it hurts more then it would if I were not reading just because I’m struggling with something and don’t want to think of my own life.
The last months God has really been teaching me to especially come to Him in those weak moments instead of turning to a chick flick or novel. It takes discipline and dying to myself at that moment, but if I do just sit down and spend time with God, He blesses me so, so much!
I pray He encourages you in this too, and that you may be richly blessed with His loving presence!
Thanks Jessiqua (I love the way your name is spelled 🙂
I’m glad you liked it.
Reading a few chapters at a time..sounds good 🙂 Maybe I should try that. I don’t know if I could make myself stop tho 😉
Yes, especially for non-fiction books it helps a lot to take it in shorter bites, otherwise I forget half of what is being said!