Yesterday, I went through our stash of credit card statements to file them away. When they come in, I put them in a box and eventually file them away in a cabinet when the box gets full. Eventually, we shred them and get rid of them. It took me a long time. After I was finished, I went to my online banking and opted for e-statements instead of paper. Why had I not done this sooner?
As I went through and filed them in order of date, I was of course naturally drawn to the purchases. These went as far back as 2007, so there were a lot of purchases. There were a few vendors that popped up repeatedly: Amazon, Christian Book Distributors, and Westminster Books being the most frerquent in the last two years. Yes, the majority of the purchases on those cards which I made were books. As I flipped through the statements, I had a momentary flash where I contemplated adding up how much I've spent on books in the past two years, but then thought better of it. To be honest, when I was finished, I didn't feel all that great.
Some of those purchases were good ones, and some of them -- maybe most of them -- were books that I bought because it was the "latest and greatest." Every day, through my social media channels, someone somewhere is telling me I must read this or that book. And I, being the sheep that I am (i.e. dumb) I followed along with a click of my mouse.
I wondered how many of those books I bought because I wanted to read them or because I didn't want to be left out of a conversation. How many of them did I buy because I thought they would fix a problem, or give me profound understanding? How many of them actually did such a thing? I'm willing to bet that if I knew the titles of those books, only a handful would be ones I actually remembered in any detail.
I left the whole exercise feeling like a real failure as a wife, because I know that there were times when I was not being a good steward of our finances. When we buy a Christian book, we comfort ourselves with the knowledge that it's for our spiritual benefit, and we justify our purchase. I don't think it's accurate to say that people who can't buy as many books as they want will languish spiritually. Some of the most godly people I know aren't really big readers.
I wonder how a woman like me, in Medieval times (assuming she made it past 40) learned spiritual truths? She wouldn't have had her own bible, let alone any commentaries. If she was literate, she could have copied portions of a bible, but in all likelihood, she probably had to memorize anything she wanted to remember. As I mentioned, I probably don't even remember most of what I read. How would I fare today if all of a sudden I had to memorize things I read and found intereseting? We are so spoiled now with digital books that don't take up room on our shelves and are cheaper, that we don't actually have to remember anything we've read. We can just look in our clippings. And while I'm at it, what is the benefit of having to remember less? If we don't have to remember as much, what do we do that extra space in our brains? I hope the answer isn't playing Angry Birds.
I love reading, and I'm not going to be foolish enough to say I'm never buying another book. But I also want to be financially responsible, and use our money wisely. And I want to interact with what I'm reading more fully. If I have to struggle to remember what I've read, then maybe I need to slow down. Maybe I need to savour things longer. We are so blessed to have access to cheap books. The men and women who lived before us certainly did not, and there are Christians in other parts of the world for whom books are a luxury. After yesterday's exercise, I'm going to get another box ready for the Christian Salvage Mission. Hopefully that rather sickening feeling I had yesterday afternoon will remain in my radar, and I'll be a lot more circumspect with regard to book buying.