I consider myself a pretty smart guy. I’m not like Spock smart but I feel like I could go toe-to-toe with Sulu or Chekov. My GPA from college and seminary might not accurately reflect my intelligence but I feel like I can grasp ideas and communicate them clearly.
I think I’m pretty smart until I sit down and read a book by Dallas Willard.
Dallas Willard is a philosophy professor at the University of Southern California as well as a Christian author. Most of his Christian writings focus on spiritual formation and what it really means to be like Jesus. He is intelligent, thoughtful and, through his writings, has pushed me to more passionately pursue Jesus.
He also makes me feel pretty dumb sometimes.
The Divine Conspiracy was the first of Willard’s books that I ever read. It took me four months of regular reading to make it through The Divine Conspiracy. Willard is so intelligent and thoughtful that his writing is extremely heady and somewhat dense. When reading his books, I find that I have to often go over a section numerous times in order to fully grasp his meaning.
That’s not a bad thing, though. We should strive to be challenged because that will spur growth in our lives.
I love reading fiction. It’s so easy, fun and entertaining to blow through a fantasy novel or one of the myriad Star Wars books. Those books, though, aren’t that challenging. Reading A Game of Thrones didn’t push me to be a better person or love Jesus more. I was entertained for a few hundred pages but that was it.
We should strive to read books that challenge us intellectually and spiritually. The beauty of reading a book like The Divine Conspiracy is that it takes effort, it takes intention. Instead of simply consuming words on a page, challenging books force us to interact, meditate and apply their contents.
And even if it makes us feel a little dumb it’s totally worth it.
I once heard a speaker say that with every book we choose to read, we’re also choosing not to read another book. We have a limited number of books we can read in our lifetimes; we should strive to make the most of them.
I’m all for reading books about Jedi, wizards, werewolves and 18th century Europe. However, if we want to see growth in our lives, we should expand our reading lists to include books that will challenge and inspire us.
And even though I don’t feel as smart while reading Dallas Willard, I do feel more encouraged to live the life to which God calls me.
What books have challenged and encouraged you intellectually and spiritually?