Everyone who knows me knows that I am an avid reader. I used to knock out a book every week or so, sometimes two books if I had to read for classes. When I had children, reading became a rare recreational activity.
Now that my children are older, I try to read more often. Instead of enjoying a beloved book in a plush chair, however, I find that whatever book I pick up becomes lifeless. It is not that the books I choose are boring, so much as it is my pace of reading: I am reading too quickly. I read like I go through life sometimes: rushing to get everything in before my next chore.
About six months ago, while lamenting my inability to enjoy anything I read, I stumbled upon an article that discussed the emerging ” slow reading” movement in book club and literary circles. Slow reading, according to the article, is the act of reading something in a purposeful and intentional way in order to enter into the world of the text.
It is called slow reading because, much to my delight, there are other people like me who are sick of having to rush through some great literature, both classic and modern.
Although the movement is growing nowadays (especially in a lagging economy), Christians have done slow reading with the Bible for hundreds of years. Only, we do not call it slow reading; we call it “Lectio Divina.”
Lectio Divina is an ancient spiritual discipline that means “divine reading.” Christians have incorporated Lectio Divina into their daily spiritual diet in order to “meditate on God’s Word day and night” (Psalm 1:2).
It reinforces the idea that God’s Word is “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). In other words, those who engage in Lectio Divina come to the Bible with attentive ears, knowing that reading is as much about formation and inspiration as it is about getting information. It makes us listen to God’s Word, not just read God’s Word.
In Shaped By the Word, Robert Mulholland writes: “Instead of rushing on to the next sentence…you seek to allow the text to begin to become the intrusion of the Word of God into your life…It is to allow the text to master you.” We do not consume the text as if it was fast food; we are consumed by it and compelled to respond to God in new ways.
Lectio Divina is easy to do either individually or in a small group. First, find a quiet place free from distractions. Pick a text that inspires spiritual reflection, such as a psalm or a lectionary text (see http://www.textweek.com for instance).
Next, read the text to yourself, and then read it aloud the second time through. Do not rush when you read it; rather, let the words fill your ears and your spirit. Listen to the nuances in the language; feel the words form in your mouth and flow outward from your very being. Hear the words as God’s personal love poetry to you.
Read the text a third time, and sit quietly for a few minutes while you let the words echo in your mind.
After several moments of silence, identify what portion of the text grabbed your attention or made a significant impact. Spend time thinking about what God is speaking to you through the text. Finish your time of meditation by asking God to help you respond to the text.
In the busyness of life and in the chaotic schedules of work, family time, and life-as-usual kind of stuff, the growing fame of slow reading in society is a healthy one. It is a means by which we can enrich our relationship and experience of God.
Check out one of my favorite blogs devoted to slow reading by English professor, Tracy Sheeley.