A week or so ago, my good friend Bobby threw out “One Big Question”…
Where is your favorite spot,
what is your favorite activity to seek God?
Like the faithful blog companion that I am, I’ve been meaning to follow through with a response, but I knew that my answer would have to be a blog post of its own. In fact, it will probably end up being two… or three… or maybe four posts, because as I read it more than one question is being asked. That’s how I took it anyway, and judging from the other folks’ responses people did whatever the heck they wanted with the question(s).
Speaking of what the others had to say, many of the things mentioned certainly would have been on my list as well. Meals with friends. Alone with a cup of coffee. Praying with others. And yes, even empty school parking lots.
Yet my favorite spot is found between the pages of a book. As I’ve explained elsewhere, it isn’t just any old book that will do. No, my preference is for the sort of book that “makes demands of me.” And the kind of demanding books that I appreciate most are the ones that plumb the depths of who God is or what he has done and is doing in the world. Or books about His people are and what they are to do in the world.
True confessions time… I said that I wouldn’t discuss a certain book here, but if you want my most honest response to it, here goes…
I thought it was boring.
I know it was meant to be all controversial and revolutionary and all that. But it just didn’t do much for me. It wasn’t that I was bothered by what he was saying. There were tons of things he said that I thought were fine things to say. And a few that were not. My main problem was that it just wasn’t all that interesting… for me.
Now, the guy who wrote it isn’t uninteresting. I’ve heard his preaching and he is far from boring. In fact, entertaining is his long suit. And yet, sadly our culture has gotten so muddled in its thinking that we have confused being engaging with being right. Something stated with enough rhetorical flair or with “authenticity” is passed off as truth, while writing that explains complicated truths with precision doesn’t tend to be very well-received. It is the old form over content dilemma. Naturally, one would love to have both. But having both is very, very rare.
I understand that what constitutes a “good read” is a fairly subjective thing. I am regularly reminded that the books I find most engaging would cause others to fall asleep two paragraphs in. None of that changes the fact that the “love” book joins the long list of books in the pop theology category.
These are the sorts of books that show a surface level understanding of the Scriptures, almost no appreciation for the history of theology, a lack of awareness of the interpretive tradition in which they are situated, or that they stand within an interpretive tradition at all.
Therefore, I find it refreshing whenever I come across a book that is so clearly not that. And over the past few weeks, just such a book has afforded me this pleasure. But since I’m drawing perilously near my self-imposed post length limit, sharing about this “life-giving” book will have to wait.
Instead, I’ll let my old friend C.S. Lewis wrap-up how I feel about my “favorite spot.”
For my own part, I tend to find the doctrinal books often more helpful in devotion than the devotional books, and I rather suspect that the same experience may await others. I believe that many who find that ‘nothing happens’ when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand.
C. S. Lewis, quoted in R. L. Green and W. Hooper, C. S. Lewis: A Biography (New York, 1974), page 115. (HT: Ray Ortlund)