I don’t read many real books these days. That isn’t because I have stopped reading. I read almost as much as I ever did–but these days, I have made a conscious decision to use ebooks as much as possible. I would like to say that I made the decision based on sound environmental and economic reasons: ebooks don’t use paper thereby saving trees and they generally cost less. But the truth is that I made the decision to switch to ebooks because after giving my large theological library away for what seemed like a good reason at the time ( maybe a story for another blog someday), I decided that having a library I could carry in a pocket was a great idea.
But work related paper books are still plentiful and I end up with a good number of them in the course of the year, many of which look interesting. They end up in the new book section of the book shelf in the study, until their turn to be read at which point the book gets transferred to top of the cardboard box that serves as a shelf beside my exercise bike. My plan is that during my hour on the bike in the morning, I will do my daily Bible reading which takes about 20 minutes, check email and the day’s headlines on the tablet, which takes about 5 minutes and then finish out the hour reading the latest book on the box.
And I actually do that–at least until I hit one of those stretches of ministry expansion when I have too much to do and not enough time to do it and the fatigue gets the better of me. I know that is coming when I finish the Bible reading, do the email and headlines and pick up the book. I feel a sense of dread–well, probably not dread but at least a sense of “Do I have to?”. Early in the fatigue process, I sternly tell myself that I have to–I committed myself to this and it is as much a part of my spiritual development as reading the Bible and praying and so I have to do it.
On those stern days, I might actually get a couple of pages read before I realize I am not taking anything in and in fact, am getting quite bored with the whole thing. My ability to spend an hour on the exercise bike is dependant entirely on my ability to distract myself from the boredom of exercising so being bored reading threatens my ability to stay on the bike.
The debate begins: “I’m tired–maybe I should quit biking early. All this biking probably isn’t good for me knee. This book is really boring. Read it! But I am not processing it! I’m tired. My knee might start to hurt.”
The only viable and workable solution ultimately seems to be watching Youtube videos on the tablet. They distract me enough so that I can continue the exercise session–and as for that boring book, well maybe the dog will eat it the next time he is in the basement by himself. So, for the sake of my physical health, Youtube it is.
Do I feel guilty about not reading? A bit–but it’s the kind of guilt I am used to as a religious person. There is enough guilt to take to take the fun edge off of what I am doing but not enough to stop me from doing it. Besides, watching other people’s failures and foibles gives me some comfort on my fatigue.
Should I force myself to read? Well, having tried that, I can say for sure that it doesn’t work. But from experience, I also know that I will get tired of Youtube and the ministry expansion will slow down and eventually, that book will become more interesting. So, I watch Youtube. Rather than see it as a failure, I see it as another form of Sabbath. It gives me the ability to continue the physical exercise, allows me to rest the emotionally and spiritually overworked parts of my being. It also allows me to laugh, which is physically, emotionally and spiritually healthy.
So, I read the book most of the time–but when I can’t, I allow myself the Sabbath I need because that way, I know I will eventually get back to the book.
May the peace of God be with you.