One of the hallmarks of being a geek girl is being a professed book worm. I was definitely one of those as a kid. Other than “tomboy softball player” and “expert markswoman” my identity was wrapped up in reading.
My favorite was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, then The Chronicles of Narnia, then The Lord of the Rings. When I got to college I traded fiction for apologetics. I inhaled everything I could by C.S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias, and William Lane Craig. Then, for some reason, I stopped.
I got busy working, or I was more interested in playing video games or watching TV. For a while — several months, to be honest — I played Skyrim to the exclusion of all other diversions.
Eventually I became one of those people who call themselves a reader but hadn’t actually finished reading a book in years.
To add insult to injury, I was still one of those people who buy books as if I read one a week. I have a respectable library, if I do say so myself — but I haven’t read a third of the books on my shelves. “But I’m going to!” Sure you are, Kuma-chan. Sure you are.
But then something happened just before Lent this year; a friend of mine suggested something radical. He called it “Screenless Sunday.”
The idea was to ban all on-screen distractions for one day a week. No TV, no video games, no social media, no phone apps. Calling someone on the phone was ok, as was texting for the purpose of meaningful communication. But no looking up the name of that movie on IMDb. No checking Clash of Clans. No Twitter, no Facebook, no Pinterest, and absolutely no Reddit.
I’m surprised that I wasn’t skeptical, but nope — I jumped at the idea. “Yes! I’m in!” It’s one of those things that sounds like a really healthy thing to do, like eating raw kale*, but then you try it once and never do it again.
The first Screenless Sunday was just about as difficult as I imagined it would be. After church we had to consciously remind each other not to just jump on our phones for every single thing. (Remember back in the day when you didn’t have Wikipedia at your fingertips?) But it was only noon! What were we supposed to do?!
Cue my Christmas present — a Kindle Paperwhite. I had bought a Kindle version of a book called Revolutionary Russia, 1891-1991: A History (yes, I’m that kind of nerd). It was just another one of those “I am definitely going to read this” kind of books. But here I was, sitting on the couch with nothing to do.
So I started to read.
I read about the life of Russian peasants and aristocracy. I read about famines and war. I read about dictators and revolutionaries. I read about politics and tragedy and a thirst for life and culture and truth.
I loved every second of it, and my spirit felt… alive. I don’t usually feel that way after watching TV or playing video games or watching funny gifs on reddit for the 8th time in 2 hours. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with those things; I still do them. But I realized what I had been missing recently. It was this.
It also made me wake up to the fact that I had not been reading my Bible. That’s a pretty standard Christian thing to say, right? “I don’t read my Bible enough.” But the truth was that I had not been reading it at all. “I’m tired, I’ll read some tomorrow.” Say that every day for a few months.
After a while I began to understand and articulate something I had been feeling for a long time. I had been longing. Longing for God, for the words of Jesus, for knowledge, for communication, for insight. It’s like how people crave sweets when they’re actually just dehydrated. Rediscovering reading in general has brought me to a crucial realization that I desperately needed.
I’m not trying to Jesus Juke you guys, I swear… But this feels like something valuable, and I don’t want to lose it.
As for Screenless Sunday, it’s still a thing. We’ve bailed a couple of times (as humans are wont to do with things that are good for them) but we’ve kept it going. And even when it’s not Sunday, I find myself choosing to read instead of watching TV or playing Sailor Moon Drops (sshhh). I am a reader again, and it feels awesome.
*Kale is not meant to be eaten raw. It is meant to be cooked with bacon (a.k.a. “the right way”).