Yesterday’s post wandered a bit in talking about the relevance of God’s Word even as it is found in the daily readings and prayers of the church. When I started writing I was aiming for an appreciation of the BCP daily prayers and how they have ministered to me even in just the bit I have used them privately. Where I wandered, though, was to the observation that “my brain is full; it is my soul that needs fed”, and I’d like to work through that thought a little bit more today.
Certainly my personal quirks and characteristics help cause this condition: I read a lot. My mind never seems to let go of details and trivia. (Let’s put it this way: I was the kid who at the age of 9 or 10 was reading through encyclopedias in the morning when I’d wake up early.) I do a lot of synthesizing, by which I mean that I’m not so good at creatively staking out my own position, but that I can listen to two or three other positions, evaluate them, and then pull together the pieces into a unified whole that makes sense to me. I also don’t re-read much, because my brain says “yeah, been there, read that”, and it becomes hard to slow down and concentrate on something for a second time.
As a teenager and into my twenties my voracious book appetite combined with the wealth of good books on theological subjects served me well. I read a lot, learned a lot. My bookshelves are still filled with Lewis, Piper, Keller, Wright, Chesterton, and Spurgeon. I read through a lot of Schaeffer. I had a hard time finding the patience to appreciate some of the older theologians; how can you use so many words to say seemingly the same thing over and over? I could sit and talk theology with my church leaders, and before long that desire and aptitude, combined with the ability to apply it in practical ways, drew me into church leadership myself. (Somewhere along the way we had three kids, I over-committed to almost everything, burned out, and changed churches. But that’s another story.)
Our current evangelical culture, and especially the neo-Reformed subculture within it (wherein I find currently myself) seem to highly favor this intellectual, bookish approach. Pastors like John Piper pen profusely. Pastor Mark Driscoll established his own publishing line of theological literature. Tim Keller seems to crank out a book a year (at least). It’s as if you’re not anybody until you’ve published a book. But with very few exceptions, these books don’t seem to really say anything new; the publisher is just pushing an update or a rehash with new cover art and the current big-name pastor as the author.
Now that I’m in my mid-30’s, things seem to have changed in my reading appetite. I can think of only three or four books I’ve read in the past 5 years that have really made me just stop and go “wow, what did I just read?”. Now, maybe I’m just failing to choose the right books. (In that case, I’m open for recommendations, so please leave me a comment or send me an email, FB message, or tweet with your ideas.)
But maybe I’m at a plateau where more head knowledge is not the answer. And this is where I file my desire (expressed yesterday) for the daily corporate practice of Scripture, prayer, and worship. Even that is undoubtedly not the magic answer. Maybe the struggling pursuit of the seemingly elusive daily “quiet time” is a more practical answer. But that, by itself, seems to private and insulated to me. I need community to go with it. Not community for study purposes; I just want to be with people who, like me, have that need in their soul to pray, worship, confess, and hear the Word on a regular basis. If you know where to find it, please let me know.