Pssst…I have a little secret.
By Nicole Bugnack
I have a little secret. I don’t particularly like reading Well-Read Mom’s spiritual reads. You see, I find reading them incredibly difficult. I desire to have read them (note the past tense), but the amount of discipline it takes to immerse myself in these books is challenging. Often at this time of the year, I find myself reflecting on why this is so difficult for me. Have I failed? My self-analysis reveals things I don’t like to admit and would be easier to put off thinking about until I repeat this process in Lent. Sigh.
My internal process goes something like this. The book list comes out. In my mind, I begin to create a hierarchical list of the books I am looking forward to reading. I see the advent spiritual read: The Way of Perfection. November comes.
I am filled with good intentions. I’m starting early. I snuggle up with my cup of coffee in the coziest chair in the house. Bribe the kids with a movie and think. Here I go! I can do this! But somewhere around page 22, I begin to give up. This reading is slow. This is hard. Maybe I can’t do this. What is Saint Teresa actually saying anyway?
It is at this point that I start to count down the days to my Well-Read Mom meeting. No worries. I have three more weeks; I am probably just tired. I will try again tomorrow. I’m sure it will be easier to read then. But the reading doesn’t get easier for me. I start to read other books. I’m avoiding St. Teresa. I just don’t have time to add that in right now; I justify. I want to read something more relaxing. The week of our WRM meeting arrives. A good friend reminds me of the date and tells me how glad she is we chose this version of the book. The language is so much easier to read, she says. I look at her incredulously and think: easier? I am tempted to skip my meeting. I haven’t finished the book. If I’m honest, I haven’t even gotten much farther past page 22.
It would have been easier to skip our meeting. But I didn’t. I love how God works. I fully intended to miss it. I was embarrassed and frustrated and thought I would just spend this time catching up with one of the million other things on my plate. But a few minutes before the meeting starts, my friend calls to make sure I’m coming. I listened that night to women share that they also struggled with the reading. They felt frustrated trying to understand St. Teresa’s message at times, but as they shared, they each had one or two passages that spoke to them. Parts I hadn’t read yet, and I found myself encouraged. I was motivated to try again. I wanted to read what they read. I was glad I attended. Something about our discussion had made the struggle of reading the text more obtainable. We were better together. I wanted to read more. So, after our meeting, I did. I freed myself from the pressure to read the entire book and jumped ahead to parts that touched them. I probably won’t finish the book before the end of December, but I will get farther than page 22.
Do you struggle with reading spiritual books? Here are some things that can help.
– Release yourself from the pressure that you have to finish the book. (but do get past page 22.) My favorite part of the spiritual reads is that you soak up so much and grow in faith and devotion even if you only read parts of the books. Sometimes those tiny bits will stick with you for months or years.
– Don’t try to read the book in large chunks. This is heavy stuff. There are only 42 short chapters in The Way of Perfection. If you read one per day, you can read the whole thing in a little over a month. Don’t worry if you don’t finish each chapter. Move on if you need to. Skip a couple even.
– Use your companion. If you are like me: the shortened reading guide is helpful. Pick up at chapter 25 and read St. Teresa’s reflections on the “Our Father.”
– Don’t apologize. You don’t need to feel bad if you don’t read the entire book. Even a few chapters of these spiritual masterpieces are something to be proud of. Especially if reading theological things doesn’t come easy for you, God uses all things for His glory, and so much fruitful contemplation can come from even a few words. The few chapters you read with Well-Read Mom are a few more than you would have read right now on your own.
Written by Nicole Bugnacki, Executive Director of Well-Read Mom. Nicole resides in northern Minnesota with her husband, Matthew, and their eight children.