When what seems to be depression or compulsive eating or narcissism or despair or discouragement or resentment or isolation takes over, try picturing it as a desperate and vulnerable force seeking to defy God’s grace and mercy in your life.
-Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix, 141
I’m going to digress a little further — this post is turning out to be similar to one of those winding country roads, but I promise I’ll get us back to the main route eventually — because I need to say one more thing about the context in which I bought these books.
Books have been my constant friends and companions since I first surprised my mother by reading out loud from the index of a recipe book when I was four. (And no, that was not a harbinger of any sort of facility in the kitchen.) I have read voraciously, compulsively, ravenously. I have read to cope and to escape, and I have spun stories about the many characters who populate my head. Some of those stories have made it onto paper, and a few have even found their way into print.
For most of my life, walking into a store for one item and walking out with eight books was exactly the sort of thing I’d do. But it’s out of character for the person I’ve become.
Because when the shit really hit the fan last year, reading became a casualty, too. For the first time in my life, I simply could not focus long enough to track a plot. And I stopped writing fiction, because fiction seemed like a luxury and a diversion I couldn’t afford.
And I even quit caring that I could no longer read or write.
The one perk was that I eventually stopped buying books, which I’d never managed to do before, except a few times for Lent. (And all the over-burdened bookcases in my home breathed a sigh of relief.) Why bother, when I didn’t know if I’d be able to read them anyway? I hoped that when I got my head sorted, I’d read for pleasure again. I didn’t know whether that would ever happen or when, though. I used to read 15-20 books in a month; I finished fewer than that in the entire year of 2019.
This winter I’ve gradually begun to find my way back to reading, but I’m still more interested in active pursuits and spending time with friends. And my concentration is improving, but losing myself in words happens less easily and frequently than it used to.
Still, when I got home from that store, I started reading. I began with Love Like You’ve Never Been Hurt, and I think I underlined half the book. And a few pages from the end, the author, Jentezen Franklin, says, “I believe you are reading this book today by divine appointment” (p. 226). Then I started Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer, and on page 12, she says, “This book hasn’t caught your eye by accident.”
And you know what? I think they’re both right.