Last week I requested the day off from work so that I could be at the Main Library’s annual book sale in Downtown Miami, a 15-minute bus trip from where I live. I woke early and made sure to be there before it began. As I got nearer I became adrenalized, like a little boy about to enter Disney World. Once there, I immediately went to the history/politics section, knowing I wouldn’t find any worthwhile books in the “religion/spirituality” area. I was able to pick up the remaining David McCullough books I had not yet read—a buck each! (By the way, I haven’t read a finer historian than McCullough.) I also managed to find a few biographies I had being eyeing for some now—on Ivan the Terrible (after all, I need to know who it is I’m named after), Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt among others. I also picked up some a lot of the classics, many of which I have been too intimidated to tackle. And then I struck gold: I got the Harvard Classics set for 10 dollars. What a steal! This 51-volume set from 1909-10, still in pristine condition, usually goes for $700. I quickly looked around, wondering why the crowd already packing the library had missed this. Well, the problem—if you want to call it that—was figuring how to take the two large boxes of books home. I had to take two bus trips. Alright…not a problem.
I sit now in the library, preparing yet another lesson on Galatians for my youth tonight, with commentaries sprawled over my desk. The challenge is taking the timeless truths of God’s Word and communicating them clearly and in an engaging manner so that God would be honored and my guys would be built up in Christ. Central in all this, of course, is the Book and books. Countless men—both alive and dead—regularly teach me and guide my thinking and raise questions I never thought of as I wrestle with Paul’s letter to the Galatians, his passionate attempt to awaken these new converts from the insidious false teaching of the Judaizers.
As I take a break from this, I cannot help but reflect on the power of the book. There is no question in my mind of the power of the printed word. Ever since middle school, and ever more so after becoming a Christian in high school, I have been a lover of books. While there is a shift now taking place with the emergence of the e-book, I believe books—actual printed works with covers and pages in-between—will continue to have an integral role in our society in the presentation and exchange of ideas and in the simple yet beautiful act of painting with words, as stories unfold and worlds are created and history is retold and budding theologians are equipped to be unashamed workmen.
In many ways I am what I read. Though not always perceived, books make certain indelible impressions upon the reader. It makes no difference whether one remembers all the details of the book or not. In one way or another, if read well, a book becomes part of you. After a meal is eaten, a person is not always aware of all the digestive activities that take place. Indeed, we all know that our daily meals contribute to our long-term health, for better or worse. And so it is with our reading of books. We will not always be aware of the mark they are making, but unquestionably books are molding us and refining us, allowing us to expand our thinking, to venture into worlds unknown and times not our own.
Coming from an amateur reader, I realize this is all but a foretaste of the book’s power. And for that reason, I have not given up on the book.