We all need our down-time, no doubt about it. If we didn’t take it, we’d be sure to face burn-out on a daily basis. And cracking open a good book or magazine is probably one of the top picks for just about all of us.
And whatever we choose to read often depends on many factors… the time of day, our mood, stress-level, etc. Sometimes we just want something light and without much depth to it, and other times, we’re looking for something with a little substance to it. Or maybe a combo. I often fill this time reading cookbooks or perusing websites in the cooking/health category, and other times (like when I crawl under my covers at bedtime), I can only handle something very ’feel good’ and light… things that don’t require a ton of brainpower and that bring about a peaceful feeling. Good old Reminisce magazine usually fits the bill here. (Love that magazine!)
Like most of you ladies out there, I’m usually not afforded as much time to read as I would really like, so if I do find the opportunity to dip into a book, my main rules for my reading material are:
- It is not ‘junk’ for my spirit.
- If one of my kids were to observe me reading it, I would not be ashamed.
- It will increase my knowledge in something purposeful (not always the case for the ‘light’ reading choices… but rules 1 and 2 would still be applicable.)
I would not say that I stick to this absolutely, positively 100% of the time, but I’ve definitely found that the more I do adhere to these guidelines, the more unappealing and empty all the other stuff out there becomes. For example, the other day while I was in the waiting room during my son’s orthodontist appointment, I picked up the People magazine on the table next to me. First off, I realized how completely out of touch I am with whatever is going on in Hollywood. I think I recognized about 5 faces in all of the pictures I saw. (And, in my opinion, being out of touch with Hollywood is a good thing!) Secondly, I was reminded about how empty all of that surface-level, materialistic, worldly ’nothingness‘ really is. I think I would have been happier watching the kids’ movie on the flat-screen TV hanging on the wall. And truthfully, I felt funny when I put the magazine back on the table after my son had come out from his appointment. (A rule #2 violation.)
Now… onto the book choices. For me personally, I’m rarely able to fit in a fictional book. I’m definitely NOT saying that fictional books aren’t worthwhile… there are thousands of fantastic ones out there, and many of them are authored by Christ-centered writers who build storylines and characters with great integrity and purpose. But with my limited reading time in this season of life, if I get the chance to read, I want to feel as though I got something very tangible out of it.
But, for-sure-no-doubt-about-it, the one area that we should all stay away from is romance novels. Ladies, these are pure poison for yourself, your spirit, your marriage, and your family. This is actually one of the reasons I am very choosy if I do ponder any fictional reads… they can be such a slippery slope. The books can range from having characters with innocent, respectful relationships who maintain proper moral boundaries, to extremely immoral and inappropriate settings and storylines. And although most of us probably don’t go all the way to the extremely sinful end of the spectrum on our book choices, there’s still plenty of danger in the ones that seem “not all that bad”.
You see, what these books do is bring you out of reality and into a fantasy world… a world which these authors can create to be so appealing in contrast to our everyday lives. The problem is that when we choose to regularly divulge in these types of fancy fairylands, then our daily, run-of-the-mill lifestyles suddenly become less and less desirable. Boring. Stale. Not quite up to our romantic, silly illusions of how we should be living.
I mean, what else are you going to be thinking about after reading all about how Chase, the shirtless wrangler, single-handedly built his own cabin out on the open land of Montana, and is now looking for a beautiful bride to help him run his million-dollar cattle operation? But not to fear, Chase… sweet, innocent Abigail, freshly widowed, has just arrived in town, after answering the town’s newspaper ad that they are in need of a new schoolmistress. But can he bring her out of her shy apprehension, and can she tame that wild, raging heart of his? Dear-oh-dear…
Slap! That’s the sound of reality hitting you every time you have to re-enter your real world. And the hits will get harder and harder each time, which does nothing but grow resentment in your spirit. Are you really going to close that book and want to enter back into your humdrum life in your crowded suburban house? As you see your husband plodding down the hallway in his mustard-stained shirt, carrying the toilet plunger…the toddler’s just disappeared around the corner with a Sharpie… and, due to the overwhelming evidence, you are now concluding that your dog must have eaten something questionable last night. You will grudgingly leave your book to take care of your homemaking duties, all while questioning yourself as to why your life isn’t more exciting.
You will begin comparing your husband to all those other men you read about, and you begin to build a distorted view of how life should be. And actually, for girls, the seeds for these fantasies are planted at a young age when they are constantly surrounded by princesses, fairy tales, and castles. Romance novels are just an elevated, adult version of this. But much darker… do you realize that many of those books are a form of soft-pornography? They are the perfect portal for Satan to reach through to you, your marriage, and ultimately your family. If he succeeds in breaking the marriage, he breaks the whole family.
So, instead of going to these fantasylands, we need to start choosing our reading material more wisely. Make the precious moments you have to yourself count for something, and whatever you choose to set in front of your eyes, let it be edifying to your spirit. Use the rich resources that are out there to make yourself more skillful, creative, and discerning, rather than stagnant, discontented, and disillusioned.
Use Philippians 4:8 as a great checkpoint for yourself when choosing your reading material:
“…Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” Philippians 4:8, NIV