Thursday, March 15, 2007

What I See in Books

Every time I step into my office these days I am given cause to pause. We will be moving in about four months and the idea of having to sort and pack my books is more than a little daunting. My daughter says we should just put a sign on the lawn, 'House for Sale, Includes Library.' The cheek of some people's children!

I've been reading a wonderful children's book called The Book Thief. (A warning here, there is some bad language in this book). The main character is a young girl who steals her first book at her brother's graveside. Books become extremely important to her, as she lives in the midst of the madness of Germany in the 1930's and 40's.

Books mean a lot to me, too. I've never stolen one, but I confess when I was young I used to take them out of the library just to touch them, hold them, put them on a shelf and look at them. To me, they were, and are, icons of comfort and security. Lately I've been examining why. I suppose a good therapist could write a book about it. (I'd be willing to be the subject as long as I get a copy I can touch, hold and put on my shelf!)

Perhaps the attachment has to do with power. There is power in knowledge, they say, and the best way to gain knowledge is to read. Perhaps it has to do with ownership. Some people have to own a new car every year. Books are cheaper. Or perhaps it's security. A room full of books gives me the same feeling a pile of firewood did in the Yukon when it turned sixty below. The fear of being out in the cold is kept at bay for a while.


I know a lot of people who are like me - they love books, especially "good" books - and we have a lot of discussion about why we think a particular book is good. Finding a gem is reason for excitement among this group of people and, again, I've wondered why. What is it that makes us search for good books? Indeed, what is it that makes us search for goodness in anything?

I believe, whether we know it or not, we are searching for God. I believe this is a primary motivation inside me when I buy a book - books somehow give me a window into the mind and heart of God. Not all books do this, of course, but even the bad ones have their moments. Each being written by a man or woman whose essence is eternally connected to his/her creator, God is there. Sometimes His face shines from the pages. Sometimes it is a shadow that lurks. Sometimes it's a thread that ties the thing together or the glue that drips from the binding. You might not even be aware of it. The author might not even have been aware, but God is there and opening those pages reveals Him to us all. And it is God who provides true knowledge, true security.

I was telling my husband a bit about The Book Thief as we drove to a nearby city the other day. He asked me if it was a Christian book. "No," I said, "not at all."

But I see God in it. That's why I want to touch it, hold it, read it intently and keep it on my shelf.

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