Why Some Books Make Me Wonderfully Dissatisfied

blogpicI like to say that the best books are the ones that make you dissatisfied with your own mediocre existence.

I have had the privilege of reading some very good books over the past year. It was not a year in which I could boast a long list of books read, but the small stack I did read nourished my mind and soul.

There are some books you seize from the shelf for the sake of entertainment or escape, and they in turn seize you. When you part the covers, you unveil a mirror. Not a reflection of things seen, but of things unseen. The words between the lines whisper to your soul, and your mind shifts uncomfortably. But you cannot put the book down, and when you finish it, it is as dear as the friend who dares to tell you the uncomfortable truth about yourself.

I consider myself fortunate because I’ve read a couple of such books this year. Not surprisingly, they were biographical stories and the highlights of my reading list.

One was Mark Twain’s Joan of Arc (more formally known as Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc.) In this book, I witnessed Mark Twain’s portrayal of mankind at its weakest and of God’s instrument that raised France to what it never hoped it could be. Though Joan of Arc has a predictably sad ending, the content is inspirational, not only because it shows what people can do when they have a leader and a cause to believe in, but because it shows what God can do with the most common, most overlooked being.

And then, I read for the third time (though the first time in about seven years) the biographical novel, Christy by Catherine Marshall. There are too many reasons to list why this book particularly spoke to me, especially on my third reading, so I’ll simply say that I’m glad I acted on a sudden impulse and rented it from the library. Not unlike Joan of Arc, one takeaway factor of Christy is what God does with those who are willing to help and to learn.

After reading such booksI’m known to go into thinking spells. Why is it some books get under my skin? Well, in my musings, I’ve realized that, regardless of whether the book is fictional or historical, in its pages is a raw form of truth. I am captivated by such stories because I can look at trial, triumph, and truth from a distance that affords me an undiluted perspective.

There are times in my life, no matter how apparent the truth is, I cannot see the forest from the trees because I am too near-sighted, too involved. But when an undiluted truth of another’s story is compared to my own life? That’s when the dissatisfaction comes in. A very, very good dissatisfaction. Because now I want to be more than I am. I want to believe the truth that I have heard but never before forced myself to act upon. I want to rise above.

Why? Because now I believe it’s possible. Now I’ve witnessed the power of faith. Now I’ve witnessed what a powerful God does with weak people. Now I know I’m not alone in my struggles.

And now I’m dissatisfied enough with my own meager existence to do something worthwhile.

(This post originally appeared on the Art of the Word blog, http://www.woaservices.com/blog, January 22, 2013.)

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