It may seem strange to talk about planning anything for 2021. One could argue that we should focus on just trying to survive 2020. But I think it’s a perfect time to focus on becoming intentional in an area where we need it most: in feeding our souls so we can survive the long winter ahead of us.
Reading the right books can sustain us. Most of us are weary of skimming social media and news articles. “We are bombarded by a glut of content and information but have so little wisdom,” observes Brett McCracken. Unless we’re careful, we’ll default to scrolling and binge-watching rather than drinking deeply from great books.
I’m planning ahead with a reading plan in two areas.
“Visit many good books, but live in the Bible,” Spurgeon wrote. All human books grow stale, he observed, but “with the Word of God the desire to study it increases, while the more you know of it the less you think you know. The Book grows upon you: as you dive into its depths you have a fuller perception of the infinity which remains to be explored. You are still sighing to enjoy more of that which it is your bliss to taste.”
I plan on re-reading the Bible again next year using the book Every Word: A Reader’s 90-day Guide to the Bible by Molly Sawyer, Susan Goodwin, and Jennifer Peterson. But then I want to read slowly, with a pencil, and work through passages for as long as it takes.
Ray Ortlund once wrote, “Suggestion: Since the Bible is probably too big a book for us to master it all in one lifetime, in addition to many annual read-throughs, choose one OT book and one NT and spend the rest of your life drilling down really deep there. Mine: Isaiah, Romans. Both are addictive.” Great advice.
“I have never met anyone who knew the Bible too well,” says Ortlund. “It deserves a lifetime of daily attention. Few things deserve that.”
In 2019, I read more than a book a week. This year, I’ve slowed down and read bigger books slowly. I plan on continuing this practice next year.
“Read more old books than new books,” writes Brett McCracken. “Read the Great Books twice rather than a mediocre book once. Read a broad array of books: fiction and nonfiction, poetry and prose, philosophy and literature.”
I’m currently reading The Chronicles of Narnia. I want to read Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry next. My wife is reading an edition of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress edited by C.J. Lovik. I have lists of books I want to read, a mix of old and new.
I guess I’m suggesting that we plan to read not merely as a discipline but as a survival tactic. We need to find practices that will keep our souls healthy during these trying days. One of those practices is reading: reading and being mastered by Scripture, and then reading the best of books.
Plan for 2021 and start early. We could all use it. It will be good for our souls, and we’ll probably enjoy it too.