Reading often means gathering information, acquiring new insight and knowledge, and mastering a new field. It can lead us to degrees, diplomas, and certificates. Spiritual reading, however, is different. It means not simply reading about spiritual things but also reading about spiritual things in a spiritual way. That requires a willingness not just to read but to be read, not just to master but to be mastered by words. As long as we read the Bible or a spiritual book simply to acquire knowledge, our reading does not help us in our spiritual lives. We can become very knowledgeable about spiritual matters without becoming truly spiritual people.
As we read spiritually about spiritual things, we open our hearts to God’s voice. Sometimes we must be willing to put down the book we are reading and just listen to what God is saying to us through its words.
Henri Nouwen, from Bread for the Journey
Perhaps this is something we bloggers, tweeters and Facebook posters need to consider very carefully. Certainly, for myself, I’ve been finding that I need to be liberated from the self-imposed tyranny these things can inflict (with all the paradox inherent in that sentence). I find it’s far too easy to become conditioned to a way of reading that involves filleting and gathering in a very similar way to how Nouwen describes academic reading. Being prepared to lay this down involves a sort of humility, a poverty of results, that we may find as difficult as would the scholars Nouwen is writing about…