In the book of Job, as his friends try to convince him of the way the world works, the (much maligned) friends are not always wrong though they often apply the truths they discuss to the wrong context. It is an example of the difference between data wisdom. Bildad says, “For inquire, please, of the former age, and consider the things discovered by their father.” This is almost always good advice as there is much to learn from the writers of the past. Of course, they were often patriarchal and/or racist and/or misogynists, but that likely doesn’t mean everything they ever thought or sorted out was useless drivel.
I think it was C. S. Lewis who noted that many of us do not believe we are ‘smart’ enough to read old texts so we settle for interpretations that make them more approachable, like rather than read Plato we read ‘Plato for Dummies’ and rather than approach a Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky, a Hugo or Dumas, we read what we expect will be more “approachable.”
How sad it is—and how poorly we treat ourselves—if we fall into this. Imagine if someone said this to you: “don’t read that you are too stupid for reading that” you would almost certainly read it to prove them wrong (after responding to them using the biggest words you know, of course).
Or maybe you don’t have that sort of pride. What if a teacher told your kid or grandkid not try something hard just because it is—you know— hard and because the student is dumb and weak and should avoid hard things…we would never accept that, yet we do it to ourselves all the time.
This can apply to any part of life “too old to run? Too fat? Etc. etc.” too old or tone def or lacking the beat to learn an instrument, too shaky a hand to paint/draw, too limited a vocabulary to write or unpoetic a mind to rhyme…on and on we can go being rude and mean and putting ourselves down in ways we would never accept outside our own heads.
We pay a price for all this negative self-talk. We forget where democracy comes from, how it works, and our responsibilities within it, we forget how civility is better for all of us (especially the cashiers and other lower wage earners), we forget how to prioritize the important parts of life and shake our heads as our lives don’t turn out how we thought they would, we fail to reflect on what the good life is for us and how to pursue it and are surprised when we do not accomplish the sorts of things we thought we were capable of. We are like kids who refuse to listen to their parents when it is -28 outside and they tell us to wear big mitts, we assert our independence, but much to our own detriment.
So why not pick up something hard in 2023? Many have found spiritual practices such as daily meditation, prayer, journalling, bible reading hard but helpful habits. Some are diligent enough to learn to sing hymns or play them on instruments, this too takes daily work. Maybe it is a weekly rhythm of sabbath (this is weirdly hardest of all!).
What I have found most beneficial is to read the bible daily. I read lots of other stuff too, but only after my bible reading has been done for the day. Maybe you are not there yet and you prefer to read something uplifting or spiritual every day.
In 2023 Do not read about CS Lewis unless you are also reading CS Lewis (even he would have agreed to this) and do not read about the bible or cute little devotionals unless you are also reading the bible itself because when you do so it is a disservice to CS Lewis (or whoever), to God (the bible) and to you.
In 2023 choose to honour yourself, even to respect your mind and your ability to read, to seek answers, to discern truth, you are neither too young nor too old for this. If you haven’t done it in a while this might be hard, you might feel vulnerable, that’s ok, push through and read something hard this year anyways.
You can do it! God himself left behind endless breadcrumbs for us to follow and he has given us the ability to follow the trail.
One thought on “Read Something Old in 2023”
A lot of wisdom in this post. Maybe I’ll try reading one of those Russian authors. Have started their books in the past but never finished them. Rather heavy 😉 Yes reading the bible is a must. I think what I treasure just as much if not more is my prayer time with my Lord while I am driving or walking. I am always amazed by what He brings to my thoughts. His guidance & faithfulness are constant. I often pray “use me Lord”. Now that I am older, soon to be 79, & have some health issues I wonder if that is a smart prayer 🤔 because when I am willing He always uses me. My Lord knows me—now I am given names of people to contact, support, comfort, encourage, pray for, walk beside in their journey— often illness , dying, death, grieving. These things I can do when He is with me, often giving me the words when I’m uncertain. In the past He has asked some big things of me — it seemed like that to me 😳 but He always enabled me to do it. My Lord is amazing! Now His directions are gentle.
I enjoy seeing you grow & mature in your ministry.
You & yours are always in my prayers.
Take good care,