Books have shaped my life, my thinking, my vision, my motivations, even my character. However, it is not the books alone or the words themselves that have changed or shaped me. In the end, change comes from the person who initiates it. And that person can only be you.
See, one person could read an inspiring book and be challenged to embark on a life-altering course through specific choices and a desire to act on what has been read or discovered; but another person could read the same book and throw it aside unconvinced because they deem the content way too boring and serious (or 'deep', as they say).
Since I was about 15, I've always kept a notebook of the books that I've read. I've lost the original list, unfortunately. But I've started again. In 2013 alone, I read over 35 books! I once mentioned that to a friend who was telling me how things have gotten so busy that she's only managed to finish 2 books in a whole year. I realized then that you can never be too busy for discovery. You can never be too busy to seek the truth and to find it. If you think you are too busy, you must stop your busy-ness at once. Because the thought itself has rendered you helpless for no reason. Never give yourself a 'legitimate' excuse to not read, study, work, play, travel, read the Bible, talk to people, and yeah the list goes on.
As I reflect on my life and where it's headed (or where I'm hoping it's headed), I can only breathe a prayer of thanksgiving to God for leading me to read all the books that I have 'chanced' upon (and some which I've actively sought out) over the years. I remember when I was around 15, I started a simple prayer that God would speak to me and convict me through the books that I chose to read. And I can testify to the fact that since then, every book I've read seems to have had an indelible impact and impression on my heart and mind concerning important matters and issues such as the meaning and purpose of life, faith, missions, injustice, poverty, war and trauma, refugees and asylum seekers, psychology, Christianity, Islam, mental health, terrorism, working with special needs children, autism, family, genocide, volunteer work, Christian persecution, and the list goes on.
I can truly say that all the adventure books, the Christian philosophical literature, the historical fiction, the inspirational biographies I have read over the years have opened my eyes to the world around me. They have make known to me the impossible things and inspired me to strive towards the impossible with God's help.
Through the books I've picked up, either at the library, at second-hand shops or at the Koorong Christian bookstore (my favorite place), God has indeed spoken into my life and challenged me about some vital concerns. He has inspired me, made me laugh, made me cry, made me pray, made me write songs and write meaningful statuses through the lives and literature of hundreds of different authors.
I want my life to be a living testimony, a living manuscript for all to read. I want to tell people about what Jesus has done for me. Some people might think I write about faith matters much too much. But all I can say is, 'How can I not?' If something has changed your life, your thinking, your attitude for the better, how can you not tell others about it? This is me. I cannot separate myself, my music, my thoughts, my words and actions from what I believe.
Here is where I will make an admission. I am still failing in that respect. I don't always act or speak in a way that shows integrity of heart. I don't always live out what I say I believe. And this has been my greatest epiphany since December 2013. It is still changing me day by day. When I choose to be quiet, God whispers this reminder to me. That He doesn't need me to save the world or live perfectly. He just desires that I desire Him, that I know Him daily, and not just 'say' that I know Him.
I love what Paul writes in Romans, 'Let God be true and every man a liar.'
Indeed, not even all the books in the world, the greatest discoveries, or even the noblest of good works will matter if we are inwardly trying to deceive ourselves and hide from God.
All that aside, now I will tell you about the coolest book I have ever read. It's still an international best-seller since it was printed many, many years ago. Even before Harry Potter, the Da Vinci Code, Lord of the Rings, or Les Miserables.
According to the Guinness World Records, the Bible is the world's best-selling and most widely distributed book. Around 2.5 billion copies were printed between 1815 and 1975, but more recent estimates put the number at more than 5 billion. The whole Bible had been translated into 349 languages; 2,123 languages have at least one book of the Bible in that language.
You can't have a best-seller without readers. So for some reason, there has always been a demand for the Bible. I read an article on the Atheist Network that says that the Bible shouldn't be the world's greatest best-seller of all time because most of the people who own a Bible probably hasn't read it fully and there are many people who are given Bibles but do not want them. That may be true. But I can only say what's true for myself. I do know people who have read the Bible cover to cover, and still read it year after year. One of them being my Dad. It is not read as a ritual but as a discipline borne out of an eagerness, and a spiritual transformation that continues to work positive changes in our hearts and lives.
So I can honestly say that the greatest book in my possession is my Bible. It's the only book that I read week after week, again and again - in addition to all the other books I read in passing. It is my constant. Because God is my constant. His word never fails because it is Truth that holds all things together.
Think about the laws of the universe. You can say you don't believe in gravity, but gravity won't argue with you or bother to prove you it's true. If you put gravity to the test - and jump off a building, you will fall. Who put gravity in place? It's a law that holds the universe together somehow in a mighty balance.
God is real to me like that. But He is not to be compared to gravity because He created it. My point though is that God has become real to me because I have chosen to look for Him. Although I was blind at first, I begin to slowly see the Light as I sought the truth. But when I could see, I found that the world I lived in was so fogged up by this suffocating, black smog (representative of the ways of this world - lust, pride, destructive fame and power, sin, selfishness, greed, pollution, corruption, injustice, etc.), so much so that I still couldn't see quite clearly.
But you see, that is the beginning of sight, of discovering Jesus and the Truth. It begins with a desperate desire, then it moves on to a deeper dimension, and this whole process is a gradual transformation that occurs in you and through you.
And as I reflect on who I am now, I can only say that the greatest discovery I've made has been initiated through my probings into the Bible - what I believe is the inspired word of God. It is more than a historical book, it is more than a book of wisdom or a book of man. It breathes life into its readers - but remember what I said at the beginning, one person can read a book and be changed, another will read it and carry on with his life.
All I can say is, if you think you don't need it, you probably haven't thought long and hard enough. And only a desperate man or woman will admit: 'Yes, I think I actually haven't ever given much thought to it. I've never cared for such things. I always thought they're for weak, unintellectual (not to mention hypocritical) people. But you may be right, how could I dismiss something I've never even attempted to understand?'
Friend, your journey begins the moment you lay your doubts at the table and confront God. As my parents always said to me, 'If you are truly searching for Him and for the truth, it doesn't matter what you know or don't know, God will meet you where you are.'
~ J a n i e ll e