I was thinking the other day how much I miss reading a good book. I still read, but just pieces here and there. I miss picking up a book and then becoming a hermit for the next 3 days until it’s done. I’m not allowed to be a hermit in my room anymore. Even when I try, there seems to be yelling and pounding and little chubby fingers reaching underneath the door. So I’ve given up.
One thing that is not taken, though, is my memory of books. I can close my eyes and go anywhere. From the moors of England to the desert of Iran. When I think about which book would be worth my time to read, I’m reminded of the books I’ve read.
There are some books you never forget. They’re not in any order. They’re pretty much all amazing very different reasons.
I think of Jane Eyre, which was just a random purchase over Christmas break in college. A chapel speaker encouraged us to put down the Christian romances and pick up a good solid book. So I used a $5 gift from an aunt, and bought a cheap paperback classic. Little did I know, that meeting Jane would change me. Seeing her resolve, her certainty. She had convictions. When love tried to blur what was right and wrong, she held to what was right, even though her only chance of happiness was within reach.
My favorite part:
“I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad–as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is not temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth? They have a worth–so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane–quite insane: with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs. Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot.”
This world could use some more of that.
Seriously. I think I’ve read this book hundreds of times. Knut laughs when I just pick it up and read a random chapter. I tell him I’m having a little visit with my friend Jane. We think that in our world, and in our culture, nothing is black and white. Everything is a shade of gray. Jane makes things black and white. Her world was all gray, but she didn’t see it that way. Looking around her, there were all sorts of “versions” of Christians. From the hypocrite of Mr. Brocklehurst to the martyr, St. John, it’s not until the end of the book where you see a true picture: Mr. Rochester, broken, and handicapped. Grace was poured on him in abundance in the end.
In Jane Eyre we can see what religion can be twisted into, and contrasts that with the grace of God.
O, and it’s an incredibly great love story.
This book got me out of cheap Christian romances and into great literature. Because of this book, I chose a degree in literature. It just contrasted so sharply from the “good” romance books I had picked up as a teenager.
The Hidden Art of Homemaking was given to me as a Christmas present. Knut’s girl cousins usually do an exchange and one year it was a used book exchange. Little did I know, the used book I got in the exchange would bring so much joy to my job. Like many women in my generation, my mom worked. I don’t mean to make this a stay at home/working argument, but I think in the last few decades, some knowledge didn’t get passed down. I think families went into “survival mode” for so long, that the art in homemaking was lost. It went from a work of art, to a job that needed to get done in the most efficient way.
Edith Schaeffer inspires in this book. She makes me want to iron tablecloths. The most memorable story in this book is one where she explained that when a hobo would stop by her house asking for a meal, she would always bring him out a tray with her best cloth laid on it and always, always had a vase with flowers in it alongside the meal.
It makes you think. Am I trying to feed my family a meal, or am I going to make it beautiful? To her, creating beauty isn’t just reflecting our creative God, it’s a means to extend His grace and a tangible way to give value to life.
This book clicked me out of the survival mode that I was in from having 2 little babies 15 months apart, and put me into thriving mode. It made me want to create a beautiful home for them to grow up in. It made me want to write them letters, create memories, and pick some flowers. I think this is a must read for any homemaker out there.
What’s So Amazing About Grace? was a book I picked up when I worked at a book store in college. Written by a journalist, not a professional theologian, he dives deep into what exactly grace is. Up to this point, if someone asked me what grace was, I’d respond: something you don’t deserve. I had always heard that mercy is withholding something bad that you deserve, and grace is extending something good that you don’t deserve. However, that description is hollow compared to this book. This book brought me to tears again and again as I started to grasp how deep is the love of Christ. I would recommend this book to someone who has been a Christian for awhile. Better yet, those who grew up in the church. Someone who can explain how to come to faith without breaking down in tears at the awe of it. I don’t even have this book on my shelves anymore. I keep buying it, and giving it away. It never stays on my shelf long.
This Present Darkness is a scary book. While having all the aspects of a cheap bestseller, it mentally engages you in a battle. So we have grace. Now what? This book, along with it’s sequel, Piercing the Darkness are a work of fiction. They’re not meant to be great works of theology, nor should they be taken as such. However, they made me aware of a battle. It made the Scripture talking about putting on the armor of God make sense. In this book, unbelievers are victims of a terrible evil. They are captive. Christians are soldiers, whether they are aware of it or not. This book makes the Christian life something very very active. It’s not a passive, oblivious life. It’s involved.
I think it would be easy (speaking from experience) to go through the Christian life thinking that because God’s grace covers all, it doesn’t matter what I do. I’m not here to preach some heresy of works based salvation. I’m just saying, there’s a battle that we get to take part in. The Bible talks about this battle over and over. Being aware of the deception of demons, as put very well in The Screwtape Letters is a huge portion of that battle. God has saved us, by his grace. God has called us to his service, and has set out work for us to do in this Christian life. The work doesn’t save us, his grace does. The work he equips us for makes us effective Christians.
I think we are robbed from joy in the Christian life when we start to believe that since we are not saved by works, it does not matter if we do the work God has given us to do and equipped us to do. What at stake is not the removal of God’s grace, but the effectiveness of us as believers, and the joy in the work.
Both the Peretti books and the Screwtape Letters are great reminders of the battle around us, and opens our eyes to the maneuvers of the enemy.
What about you? What books have changed you? I’d love to have a book on hand just in case I’ll be able to read it!