Saturday, April 16, 2016
Do You Study A Lot?
The man came up to me in the church, as I sat there reading before mass. “Tom, do you study a lot? I assume you’re taking lots of classes because I always see you studying books.” I laughed and explained that I have always been a reader, reading hundreds of books a year. And he went away, his curiosity satisfied.
But as I sat there I realized I had expressed my situation wrongly.
To say that I read, or even study, implies that I am acting that way because I perceive a benefit from doing so. When I read fiction I admit it is always for entertainment, and I find a novel’s complexity much more entertaining than a television show or movie that summarizes the story or only presents the “interesting” parts. No, I enjoy the whole story. Books of faith, however, I read differently.
Now I certainly admit that I used to study books of faith, to learn more about what Jesus said and did, to learn more about the people who followed Him, and sometimes to seek specific answers to problems in my life. Yes, I used to study books of faith, but somewhere along the way, that changed.
I now read more faith books than ever --- I have more free time than ever --- but I have noticed a change in my reading habits. It came about gradually; I didn’t seek it. Somewhere I gradually stopped seeking to learn, and let Jesus begin to teach me. I stopped looking for things of interest to me, and let my heart be opened to things of interest to Him --- and it seems they largely center about how I am to live my life. I grew up and learned rules on how to live a good life, and I read books which gave me new rules. I guess I thought there are rules which applied to everyone, but I never thought there were unique rules for each one. I found, however, that there ARE unique rules for me, on how I am to live my life, with the unique talents and opportunities God placed before me.
Gradually I started seeing things in the books I read, words which seemed to apply uniquely to me, now. And perhaps most importantly, WHY they applied to me --- that was important because of my analytical mind: I always want to know “why’. And often in reading, gradually I began to understand things in my heart. As a problem in my life became a concern, suddenly it was very common for me to pick up a book and lo and behold on the first page was an answer to that concern. I found God speaking to me in the words I read, whether those of Scripture or of the saints.
So now I read, in the chapel or church, so God can teach me. I don’t seek to learn anything; I let Him pick the topic. And in the quiet He answers my prayer to “Make me an instrument of Thy peace.” And I see how I can, and the opportunities He gives to me. And certainly of late I see Him getting to the heart of His life and mine: He is teaching me how to love.
And as He continues to teach me, at least on some occasions, I think (I hope) He gives me a passing grade!