A Reading Life is a blog series focused on the literature that has shaped my life and call to ministry. Find the introduction here.
In my previous post, I wrote of the melancholy I experienced in seminary. I burned out on biblical academia, and inspiration was hard to come by. I found solace in the writings of spiritual authors such as Henri Nouwen, but I had to find ways to get out of the biblical bubble of full-time school.
This reached a head in my last year of seminary. We had our first child, a precious gift, but it was a difficult transition from newlyweds to new parents; and I was facing dead ends in applying for jobs and a PhD. program. Doors were closed, and I could not see light at the end of the tunnel. I started seeing a counselor for a season. I was depressed (for reals). I needed a hobby.
When I finally graduated seminary, I only had a part time job while my wife worked full time in education, so I became the stay-at-home dad for our first born. When my wife came home from work, I went off to my part-time job at church.
My daughter and I had fun every day, but when it was nap time I was happy to have some quiet time to watch television. I started watching the old Star Trek: The Next Generation series, which my father watched when I was a child.
I watched it religiously every day at 1 PM. I got caught up in the plot, the characters, and the action. I did not appreciate the show when I was younger, but for some reason it struck a chord and I got hooked.
Enter junk fiction. Junk fiction is my moniker for fiction that has absolutely nothing to do with ministry. It is neither religious nor informative; it neither enlightens nor inspires. It is fiction through and through, and it is “junk” because you can find it anywhere–from used book stores to yard sales.
I started purchasing Star Trek TNG books for a quarter a piece at an Atlanta bookstore. The plot lines were as cheesy as the show, but enjoyable. The first book I purchased was a trilogy, The Q Continuum by Greg Cox. Since Q had been one of my favorite characters (he had me at Farpoint), I enjoyed it thoroughly.
My collection of junk fiction expanded. I purchased old Twilight Zone anthologies by Rod Serling, dime-store capers, the Enders series (more on that in a future post!) by Orson Scott Card, and (at a friend’s recommendation) novels by Barbara Kingsolver. I stumbled upon the off-beat works of T. C. Boyle.
To this day, I watch TNG episodes on Netflix while I fold laundry. I enjoy the new iteration of movies by J. J. Abrams et. al. And it is not uncommon for me to read one of those twenty-five-cent novels that are still stacked on my workbench in the garage. Every Christmas I indulge by purchasing a new TNG book (Paramount still publishes about three or four novels a year), and I still get excited when I hear that soaring theme song (it was my ringtone for a while). Its junk, but its fun–and it helped pull me out of that depression after all.