"Books are standing counselors and preachers, always at hand,and always disinterested; having this advantage over oral instructors,that they are ready to repeat their lesson as often as we please."
A book casually rests atop some reference volumes high on my library shelf. Its spring green paper back and cover picture of a pensive Victorian woman have many times intrigued my literary senses. Sitting at a lovely desk, the prim woman writes, having a shy, kind look of grace about her. She appears determined, focused. Her face glows from soft, mellow light.
I have not yet even skimmed this classic work by Charlotte Bronte, time being an ever present constraint, and my need for devotional works speaking much louder than random reads. Yet, I have sought a basic understanding of Villette and have curiously read an introduction to the story behind its cover. What I found was a sad heroine, Lucy, who escapes a tragic past in her England to venture to Villette, a small village in France. Her escape leads Lucy to more sorrow, frustration, and ill-use. Villette, it seems, is a novel about despair, fear, hypocrisy, injustice, insecurity, and the need of courage.
Whether I will ever be determined enough to read this classic story I do not know. But my curiosity about its plot and theme has led me to thoughts beyond those I am sure were intended by its author. Literary critics thrive on twisting Villette into a story of feminism and the psychology of repressed emotions. I do wonder if Charlotte Bronte meant that interpretation. I am sure she often found the role of women in Victorian society a cross to bear. Whatever the author's intention and whatever the critics believe, there is only one perspective truly important. Those are the thoughts of the Creator of words. The knowledge of the Holy. God and God alone, who knows the heart of one.
Please forgive me as I speak with passion on the subject of critical reading, but I was taught to teach the written word with a worldly view. I mean no disrespect to education. God uses our educations for His glory. But I, with firm intention, have challenged myself as a reader: to read, to understand, to study, to enjoy, to learn, to determine, to define, to reflect, to employ all in Christ and with His discernment.
Dear friends, as Christians we are not divided into pieces. We are whole beings, who must wholly live and holy live. Our entire lives are hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3). I am a Christian when I worship; I am a Christian when I serve. I am a Christian when I am happy; I am a Christian when I am angry. I am a Christian when I am weak; I am a Christian when I am strong. I am a Christian if I fail; I am a Christian if I succeed. I am a Christian when I eat; I am a Christian when I sleep. I am a Christian in my church; I am a Christian in my kitchen. I am a Christian in the morning and in the evening; I am a Christian when I think of my future and remember my past.
And, yes, I am a Christian when I write and when I read. Therefore, what I read, what I see, that which I interpret must be done through the eyes of Christ, with the influence of the Holy Spirit. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing is restricted from God's counsel or authority.
It is said that A. W. Tozer, a mighty hero of faith, sought understanding of literature and studied earnestly. He searched all with spiritual understanding, even kneeling to read Shakespeare. If this great man of God turned to our Creator for guidance in all his reading, I am compelled to take his example and cast myself on God's mercy, even for what seems trivial, only earthly, small, immaterial to my Christian life.
It is God's desire to give me understanding and leadership in everything. He wants me to look to Him as the complete One. The Source of my life. Not to discount other opinions or disrespect everyone else, but to allow God's voice as the final word, the ultimate view. My viewer of views. I must regard everything through His sacred vision. Yes, God's infallible word is my all sufficient rule of faith and practice (II Timothy 3:15-17).
Through His word we learn that God is love. It is His pleasure to give you and me good gifts (Matthew 7:11). He framed us. Made us with a need to rest, to search for relaxation and refreshment in our weariness. He created language and its beauty. He designed the flow of syntax and made our brains to learn, our eyes to see, and our lips to speak, to read. So, whatever is noble, honorable, decent, and praiseworthy, we can read and enjoy, even gaining godly wisdom as we open our hearts to His voice (Philippians 4:8).
Grasp God's heart as you read and work. Listen for His voice even in what seems small. Jesus Christ is your life, and He is your gentle Shepherd. He longs to lead you in all and speak to you in all. The Lord Himself is your personal literary authority and movie expert. If you feel a tug in your heart, a warning to stay away from anything, heed this sweet voice of the Holy Spirit that only desires your good.
For, God is your faithful Source for everything, even what seems small. Oh, how he longs to lead you! Oh, how He treasures your dependence on Him! And, oh, how God is committed to every part of your life! His love for you is everlasting. And your wisdom, your life, your joy are found in His whispers, those gentle pulls at your heart strings. He has in store for you "a volume of loving thoughts."