Live Like a King

Why I’m Fasting from Novels

Posted on: January 4, 2010

I love to read. Great stories sweep me away to places and times that I’ll never see this side of heaven. I feel almost naked if I do not have a book with me at all times and taking a bath is boring without one. Over the last few weeks, though, I’ve been feeling a pull from the Lord to put aside novels for a time and refocus my life. Reading novels is not sinful or always a waste of time. Some of the best spiritual epiphanies I’ve had were while reading a novel. As with anything, there is a balance. Unfortunately, my reading habit is out of whack and negatively affecting everyone around me.

I have a tendency to bury myself in a book instead of living the life I’ve meant to live. Good stories gloss over the “boring” parts of life and allow you to live the adventure vicariously through someone else. But there are things I’m supposed to be doing for my family and for God which I never get to because I’m busy living a fictional person’s life in my head.

I think it will be nice to walk around without the brain fog a good story gives me. Even if I’m not reading, I’m thinking about the story and characters. What will happen next? What will happen after the story is over? How would the story go on if there was another book? Why does Harry have to keep going back to the Dursley’s? (I know why now).  For some books, such as the Harry Potter series, it took a few days for the fog to lift. I need that mental energy for something else.

I know I’ll pay more attention to my children and my poor neglected husband and my friends. My husband has gotten used to being ignored in the car because I always have a book with me. If he talks to me, sometimes I answer him five minutes later. I do not hear the kids bickering while engrossed in the duel between the hero and the villain.

Or worse yet, I’ll read when the kids need my help with homework or just want to talk. And if by some miracle, I look at them, my mind is still thinking about the book. When Chris wants a kiss (or more) and I want to read, I get irritated because he’s bugging me. At church, I have to resist the urge to sneak into the bathroom and read a chapter or read after service instead of talking to my friends. No story is more important than my husband, children or friends.

I’ll pay more attention to the Lord and read the Bible more if I am not reading novels. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve read through many more pages of novels than I have my Bible. Why is it that I could spend hours reading a book, but reading the Bible for 20 minutes feels like a chore? Ridiculous! The Bible contains the Words of life, Words able to change me into Christ’s image.

There are times when reading a good story crowds out the voice of the Lord for me. I have also taken what should have been my quiet time to get in “a quick chapter” and suddenly look up and it’s an hour later. I put my desire to know how the story will turn out above my duty to and desire for God. That’s idolatry.

I’ve found I have a tendency to try to hide from unpleasantness in my life by reading. For example, while I was in labor with the baby that died at 19 weeks gestation, instead of talking to those around me who were there to comfort me and help me through this, I read a book. A whole book (really three books in one as it was a trilogy bound into one book). It helped me tune out the painful feelings and kept me numb. Instead of reaching out to God, I slapped a bandage on the hurt and ignored it.

I should not be looking to a bunch of paper for comfort and strength when God is right there wanting to the do the job. The books again became an idol, the god I’d go to for comfort.

I might actually get some of my own writing done since I’m not reading other peoples’ work. Yes, reading other books for “research” has been a great way to procrastinate my own calling to write.

During this fast, the house might be cleaner. Yes, I’m guilty of putting off cleaning to read. Of course, I’m not much of a housekeeper to begin with so abstaining from novels may not help much. I’m sure I can find something else to do instead of cleaning (like writing) so don’t get your hopes up Chris.

Well I can’t say that this fast will help our financial woes. Even so, I have a tendency to spend money that should not be spent on books. Most of the books I read are not in the library, so if I want to read them, I have to purchase them. I do believe we should support the publishers and authors we enjoy during these hard times, but maybe I overdid it a little. There is always something that someone in my large family needs. Spending the limited resources we have on me is plain selfish.

What do you think? Do you have something you love to do that you need to lay down for a while to refocus on what’s really important?

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