“Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.”
II Timothy 2:7
Recently I have been struck by my need to read less and reflect more. This came to me as I was studying the New Testament book of II Timothy: “Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this”. I realized that I actually needed, right then, to stop reading, reflect, and wait for God to give me insight into what I had read. I needed to wait for God to teach me. So much for speed reading!
Growing up, I had always been encouraged to not only read, but read rapidly. How many times have I said “So many books, so little time”. When I began college I enrolled in a speed reading class and supposedly was reading 1,500 words a minute. But I found that, for the sake of speed, I was comprehending little of what I ‘read’. And who had time to reflect on all those words, on all that knowledge?
Even today, there are so many books I need to read, books I want to read, not to mention all the news items and blogs coming to me every day. I am reading a lot, but haunted by the words of the English poet T. S. Eliot, long before there was all this information on the Information Age:
“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”
And then reading the Apostle Paul I was jolted by his words: “Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give insight into all this.” I realized I need to read less, and reflect more. I need to stop, reflect, and wait for the Spirit’s insight. Paul’s words reminded me of a book from graduate school days, written by the French philosopher and theologian Antonin-Gilbert Sertillanges (1863-1948). His book is The Intellectual Life: Its Spirit, Conditions, Methods, which counsels young students on how to read, pray, sleep, exercise, and discipline their time, indeed their souls. First published in 1920, the book is about arranging your exterior life in order to arrange your interior.
I marvel today that Sertillanges’ first rule for reading is “to read little”. In the same way that we choose our friends, we need to choose our reading carefully and wisely. Surprisingly Sertillanges also cautions the voracious readers:
The passion for reading which many pride themselves on as a precious intellectual quality is in reality a defect; it differs in no wise from other passons that monopolize the soul, keep it in a state of disturbance, set it in uncertain currents and cross-currents, and exhaust its powers….The mind is dulled, not fed by inordinate reading, it is made gradually incapable of reflection and concentration, and therefore of production.
Sertillanges also pleads: “Never read when you can reflect; read only, except in moments of recreation, what concerns the purpose you are pursuing; and read little so as not to eat up your interior silence.” That is hard for me, as I have surrounded myself with a world of noise, a kind of unrest that fills my days and nights. There are so many things to distract me, even if I sometimes think they might teach me. I have made so little time for myself to reflect, to even think. But strangely I think that is being educated and caught up on the times!
In today’s Scripture the Apostle Paul counsels his young protégé Timothy: “Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this”. The best Bible commentator is God, if only we will give Him opportunity to speak! In the book of Psalms we frequently encounter the Hebrew word “Selah” (Psalm 3:2, 4, 8, etc.). This is a Hebrew musical term calling for all the music to stop, and the worshipper to stop, to literally “weigh” what has just been said. In other words, reflect! I think about how, in worship, in reading, in going about my busy day, I need to make time to stop, reflect, and wait for the Lord to guide and teach me.
I had been a minister for many years before I happened across a very ancient and wise way of reading. It is Lectio Divina, Latin for Divine Reading. It is based on the kind of reading taught in the Bible, emphasizing the need to stop and reflect and listen for God’s insight. The four steps of Lectio Divina are: Read, Reflect, Respond, and Rest. The four steps go something like this:
- READ a brief portion of Scripture;
- REFLECT or meditate on what you have read;
- RESPOND by talking with God about your Reading and Reflection;
- REST in God’s presence for a few moments, enjoying His love.
Google estimates that there are 130,000,000 books in the world, and 172,000,000 blogs! So I want to be careful what, and how much I read. For 2013 I’m going to try to read less and reflect more.
Grace and peace,
photo by St0rmz