It’s funny what you remember sometimes, inspirational thoughts and moments from the past that might have seemed so ordinary at the time, that pop up out of no where in your mind years later and you wonder just why they stuck around.
I was driving with the kids yesterday and talking with my 8-year-old about the book we’re reading at night, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. This is our second book in the Narnia series. Last year we started with The Magician’s Nephew, and I’ve enjoyed diving back into them as an adult, for my own sake and for the sheer pleasure of introducing my kids to this world of adventure and wonder. I’m not for a minute doing anything other than reading the words on the page – I am not in any way trying to explain the symbolism C.S. Lewis used, or who Aslan represents. In a sense, I only want to be the matchmaker and then slip away, not coming between my children and the beauty of the text.
Re-reading these with my daughter has been fun and thought-provoking. It’s interesting to see which pieces strike my heart deeply, what passages ring with the truth of life lived over time in a different way than the last time I journeyed to Narnia, either in junior high or high school (and no, watching the movies doesn’t count). Great books are like that, of course. They are rich enough to offer us treasure – different treasure - each time we encounter them.
I’ve long been an avid reader. When I was a child, I had a secret fantasy of being locked up in a bookstore or library overnight, able to feast on all of the wonderful books, uninterrupted. I was blessed to read well above grade level early and quickly developed a preference for "real" books, which in my mind meant chapter books without pictures.
One day in grammar school, I was looking through the school library, not finding anything of interest after having worked my way through the various series available (Nancy Drew, Bobbsey Twins, Trixie Belden,etc.,). The school librarian, an ancient nun named Sister Myra, steered me toward a picture book. She recommended it highly, telling me that the lack of pictures wasn’t the only thing that made a book interesting or worth reading.
Sadly I don’t remember what book she recommended. I didn’t take her advice. As a fifth grader, I thought myself well past picture books of any sort, figuring they couldn’t be anywhere near as grownup as books without pictures.
When this memory flitted past the other day, while thinking of the fun of reading books with my children, I found myself wishing I had taken her advice. The books I’ve been reading with my children, picture books and chapter books alike, have held currents of profound wisdom, inspirational ideas and thoughtful words in currents I didn’t recognize when they were swirling around me during my own childhood. It has been a treasure to dive back in to them, bringing my adult self into the experience and seeing them anew.
This past fall I had the privilege of teaching a college class on leading and managing change in organizations and we talked about this idea when we encountered an interesting motivational quote, a piece of wisdom from the Greek philospher Heraclitus: "You could not step twice into the same river, for other waters are ever flowing on to you."
The ideas that influence us are much like that river that Heraclitus speaks of. We encounter them initially and either they seem profound or not, but often we get so caught up in the living of everyday life that we don’t go back to them, or don’t go back to them in any sort of context. Maybe it’s a passage from the Gospel that once upon a time blew our minds away, but now we hear just a verse or two, smile at the memory, and never step back into that river, re-engaging, allowing the Word to speak to us anew again.
Is there a piece of foundational wisdom from your past that is like that? A book you might have read that spoke to you powerfully, once upon a time?
Allow it to speak again! Step back into that river of wisdom; dust off whatever work it was that struck you, and see if you might be encouraged, inspired, or challenged again in a new way.
Is there a book that challenged you once upon a time? Is it worth reading again, stepping into this different river with who you are today? I’d love to hear about it – comment below with the book’s title, what it was that moved you, and if you’ll take the plunge and read it again!