I read my favorite book of all time this week.
I have read a LOT of books in my life. I'm one of those people who enjoys sitting, curled up in a chair or under a tree or on a beach or in a bed, lost in the pages of a good book for hours on end. I read somewhere around 200 books as part of my high school curriculum. Between my husband and myself, we own at least 500, probably closer to 1,000 books, if you include all our kids books.
Through the years, there are several books that stand out in my mind as some of the greatest. There was "King of the Wind" when I was a girl, and "Ben Hur," and "The Emancipation of Robert Sadler." I will never forget how much I cried, or how many hours I spent engrossed in the pages, or how moved I was by the story.
But, of all the books I have ever read, there is one that is my favorite. I read it for the first time when I was 13 years old. And this week, 20 years after that first time, I finished my 11th reading of it.
No, that is not a typo. I have read my favorite book 11 times.
How, you ask, can I still enjoy it after so many readings? Why, you wonder, would I read the same story over and over? Doesn't it lose its impact? Don't you get bored?
I find, every time I open my favorite book and begin the story, that I feel like a kid again, reading about, discovering, the story as if for the first time. I am nearly brought to tears, I am certainly brought to the edge of my seat, and I am consumed with devouring all 375 pages as quickly as possible, with as few trips to the bathroom and as few interruptions by life as I can manage.
Maybe this makes me weird. Or maybe it just means that its the best book. Ever.
As I was reading it this week (it took me 48 hours to finish it, because I have four children and life responsibilities) (otherwise I would have read the whole things straight through without stopping till I was done) (don't judge me) my daughter walked in and said, "What are you reading?" I lifted the book out of my lap for her to read the title. She said "What is it about?" And I tore my eyes away from the pages to briefly describe it for her. Her next question was "When can I read it?"
This one gave me pause. Because my favorite thing, besides reading my favorite book, is introducing it to others, and watching their world be rocked the same way mine was the first time, and all the times since. "Well," I finally decided, "I was 13 the first time I read it. So I guess you can read it when you're 13 too." "That's less than two years away," she said with a smile.
I sat staring at the door as she walked out. How the heck did my daughter get so flippin' close to being a teenager? I must have been reading a book for the last decade and didn't notice. Where is the pause button on life? (I'm ending this rabbit trail before it becomes a blog post of its own.)
My nine-year old came in next. "What are you reading, Mom?" So I told him. "What's it about?" I told him that too. "Are there any pictures?" he asked with interest. "No," I told him, "but there are tons of words that describe things, and I have the pictures in my mind." He understood this, and was satisfied.
After finishing my favorite book, I picked up its sequel (a book of equal impact, with an even more intricate plot, that I have read nearly as many times). But, in between the finishing and the starting, I paused.
And the Lord and I had a wonderful time of fellowship, spurred on by truths my favorite book reminded me of, catapulted into action by His Spirit whispering to my heart.
Because I've been in a battle, a battle against the enemy of my soul, and I haven't been winning. In fact, I've been feeling a lot like Rocky Balboa, who gets pummeled in every single movie about him. Seriously, its like the man can't win a fight until his eye is split open and his whole face is swollen into an unrecognizable mess of blood and bruises. (oh dear, rabbit trail number two...)
But that's how I've been feeling. Like I am getting punched over and over and over and my single solitary life goal is to stay upright until the end of the round. And then I plop down on the stool in my corner, sweating and bleeding and gasping for air, and all I get is the tiniest breather before I have to stand back up and get the crap kicked out of me for another round.
Until Wednesday night. Until the round where I realized suddenly that I was going to lose, because I was trying to win on my own. Until the Lord reminded me, through pages and words I have read 11 times, that I didn't have to fight at all. He would step in, and fight for me, if I only let Him.
And so I did. And the fight lasted until almost midnight. And...my enemy was defeated.
And in the morning, I felt like I had lost 10 pounds. (too bad I hadn't lost 10 ACTUAL pounds...oops, rabbit trail number three)
And undoubtedly my enemy has gone to his corner, to lick his wounds and regroup, and prepare to fight another day, and undoubtedly I will need to be reminded again that I will lose if I try to fight alone, and certainly I will have occasion to get my eye split open, and my face beaten into a mass of swollen bruises and blood...
And, because He is just that faithful and merciful and gracious, I will be saved again, if I will but fall back on Him who has paid it all, and stepped into the ring in my place, and allowed Himself to be beaten, and bruised, and who didn't stay standing, but went down, and through His loss, He was victorious.
His words echo in my mind today. They shouted in my spirit in the middle of the night, and they continue to whisper through me now.
They are enough on their own. They are revelation. They are truth. They are the corner you can run into to be saved from the giant, steroid-shooting Russian you are battling. (we are still on the Rocky metaphor here, in case you are wondering)
Are you ready?
Are you tired enough to give up trying to fight on your own?
Are you really?
Because if not, then the words that can rescue you aren't going to get through.
You have to stop.
You have to listen.
You have to give up, drop your tired, battle weary hands, and admit that you can't take another hit.
And He is there.
"For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12)
Do you see? Do you really SEE your enemy? Take a good look at him. And then, when you're ready, really ready, tell him this:
"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness HAS NOT overcome it." (John 1:5)
We win. Our enemy loses.
There is darkness. There IS a battle. It rages on and on all around us, and often in front of us, and at times INSIDE of us. And the darkness seems too dark sometimes. And the rounds seem to never end. And the break between them doesn't give us nearly enough time to catch our breath. And our enemy is much taller, and stronger, and meaner than we thought he could be.
And we will lose.
BUT FOR THE LIGHT.
He shines in. He pierces the darkness. He fights for us.
I'm letting Him fight for me today. I'm sitting safe in my corner, reading a good book.
And in my head, I'm yelling "We did it, Adrian! ADRIAN!!!!!! I love you!"