I’m a bibliophile, in case you haven’t figured that out yet. My first and truest friends were books, and I was always tucked away somewhere reading when I was growing up. I still own hundreds of books—many of which I’ve not yet read—and am always reading ten or fifteen at a time. It is a lifelong love.
It’s only been in the last decade or so that I’ve discovered the spiritual journey books (some of which I’ve shared with you, Reader). They’re quite a genre, as varied as their authors and the Divine that inspires them. But part of the reason I like them so is that, similar to but more than most other genres, you can’t really just read them. These books require a certain heart to read them properly, or they don’t make sense.
Say you get, by whatever way, a spiritual journey book. You can read it straight out and, if you’re not ready for it, you will say, “Fine book; good points,” and throw it back to the heap of all the world’s books, thinking on it sometimes years later and remembering it disjointedly if at all.
Or you may get that book and begin it, the words sliding off of your unready heart to pool restlessly in your lungs, discomforting you with their inapplicability. You put a bookmark in and promise yourself to come back to it later, and days or weeks or months or even years pass as you move the book around and around, meaning to read it but living beyond and beside it. Dust gathers on this chronicle of someone else’s ideas, someone else’s Divine, while you are busy fleshing out your own.
And that’s okay. Good, in fact, because you are not in a place where those ideas and that Divine make any sense to you; they are shadows yet, not more advanced than you but of an utterly different shape made in familiar candlelight by hands with too many fingers—or none at all. And they may always be that; I daresay there are a great many journey books that will never make sense to me, whose pages will always turn listlessly in my fingers because I am not meant to see that face of the Divine—or because we are not looking for the same divine at all.
But some—ah, some will wait for you, patiently bearing the weight of everything else on top as you become who you are, and then one day that cover will catch your eye again and you’ll say, “I have a spare moment.” You’ll take the bookmark out from halfway through the first chapter and start over to remind yourself of this book already forgotten—and this time you are Ready. This time the words do not slide but dance on your heart, filling your lungs with an air you didn’t know you wanted, this language you didn’t know anyone else spoke like you, and even the parts you disagree with still make a certain kind of sense to you like words used in new and jarring ways.
You and that author have touched, ever so briefly, the same shade of Holy. You get to see that it can be done, that we are not chasing this ineffable God in isolation, that it must be real because someone else knows it to be so. It is an incredible experience of affirmation and encouragement.
I think it’s a God-thing, that finding of those books when you’re ready for them—and, maybe, writing one for others to discover when they’re ready. In any case, it’s why I have books like these; all books need their own time for you to spark yourself into the author, which is why I love reading, but these journeys especially need you to be ready to be grabbed by the soul, left panting in the breathlessness of Presence where two have gathered.
To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born,
And a time to die;
A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill,
And a time to heal;
A time to break down,
And a time to build up;
A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones,
And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain,
And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
And a time to throw away;
A time to tear,
And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence,
And a time to speak;
A time to love,
And a time to hate;
A time of war,
And a time of peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, NKJV)