I consume a lot of books. There are bookshelves in nearly every room of my house and extra book stacks on the floor for easy access. Some books provide me important information, like how to cook chicken with goat cheese and balsamic syrup. Others mess with my insides and meddle with my thoughts long after I’ve finished reading.
In Living Prayer, Robert Benson refers to the latter kind of book reading as formational reading. It is “reading that is not about our working on the stuff that is written on the page, it is about the stuff on the page working on us.”
Books that form me become my mentors and friends. Their authors can be blamed for much of the change that the Spirit works within my damaged soul, altering me more and more into the image of Christ. This renovation process is not comfortable, but one I suspect the writers of the books I read have already been through themselves.
Robert Benson is one of those authors. I’ve read most of his books—laughing, crying and arguing with him all the way through each of them. Mark Buchanan is another mentor that interferes with my sainthood by humorously peeling away my smug assumptions and leaving me clinging to Jesus. Then there is Joan Chittisterwho sometimes causes me to wonder if she is a Christian, then sneaks up behind me and knocks me down with wisdom culled from her relationship with Jesus.
Someday, in eternity future, I intend to sit down with these authors and thank them for their contribution to my spiritual development. We’ll drink coffee with heavy cream in the Great Library of the King, and eat chicken with goat cheese and balsamic syrup while discussing the Spirit’s work of using words to transform us. I hope you’ll join us. If so, I’ll introduce you to Robert, Mark, Joan, and many others.
What book are you currently reading that is working on you—a book that is messing with your insides and meddling with your thoughts?
In Him together, Susan Gaddis