how to read - part 1
*Today, I'm beginning a series of posts on how to read. Why? Because we are living in days where reading is the way forward, but reading isn't what we assume.
**Also, these will begin to go out on Monday instead of Thursday because it fits into my current world so much better.
We engage our minds in reading every day. Without exception.
We read visuals glowing on screens, read text from texts and digital fonts from blogs & social media. We read the weather - we take it in, comprehend it, and make judgments based on the signs and symbols we see.
Jesus was talking about reading when He addressed the people who could read the seasons but were missing the kairos - the untamable time that was expanding and exploding in the flesh and blood in front of them.
We all read. We may say we don’t, but when we do that we’re simply pushing back against academic stuff. The social strata that is created by “book people” or “edjumucated” people (as a person in my life gone by used to say). Some of us say we don’t read because we’re doing comparison work, soul slaying parallelism that says, “I don’t read (like him).” The subtext is the text in this case.
Yet God is a God who cultivated the carnival that is our brains, hewn out of earth and mineral comes a delicate electrical jellyfish that launches rockets and pens sonnets and effectively transplants a human heart.
Our brains are always reading - like eating food, devouring signs and symbols.
We see a road sign, a stop sign.
We interpret the place where we are - does it face us? Then it applies to us.
Is it across the road, facing away from us and we simply read the octagon shape? Then it doesn’t apply to us.
We see a look of happiness or joy on someone’s face.
Did we cause that?
Is that look for our benefit?
What’s behind that look?
If they’re holding a plate full of cake, then that’s a simple deduction.
If they’re holding a large knife, we should read that as a reason to run.
We are constantly reading the “texts” of our lives, and we read those texts based on the ones we’ve read before.
Driver’s Ed gave us the text for stop signs.
Feeling ourselves smile or even the primal response of our parents’ smile when we were infants gives us the text for happiness.
We are constantly reading. Our brains are taking in signs, symbols, and nuances and making meaning out of it.
God designed us to work that way.
The first step in how to read is to simply admit this is the case. We are always reading. So, the question is this: if we are always reading, what is happening to us as we do that?
And the follow up: what can we control about the signs, symbols, and ideas that we read?
I’ve grown to discover that the brain - the play of ideas, thoughts, and ways of seeing the world - is the playground of faith and spiritual formation.
If we want to walk into a more beautiful life, it’s going to begin with considering a more beautiful way of reading. A Jesus-influenced, energetic, and realistic way of engaging the various texts - printed, relational, and personal - that we face every day.
My hope and encouragement for you is this: this week, consider what it is you’re reading. How are you engaging with the signs and symbols around you?
Where is God in your reading? How would the presence of God, stilling and quieting your mind, change the way you read the situations in front of you?
In doing this, may we find out that our minds can guide us forward in new and beautiful ways if we simply learn how to read in the presence of God.