Books Are Dangerous
Ashlee Willis is the author of Christian fantasy for young adults. Her debut novel, The Word Changers, released June 23, 2014.
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Books can be bliss. Books can be a wonderful escape. Books can be deadly dangerous.
I’m not sure about you, but I’m addicted to books. I know of many people who are afflicted by this madness as well. It’s not really curable, and I’ve never been quite clear on whether that’s because it’s impossible or just the fact that people simply don’t want to be cured of it.
Books have blessed me with countless hours of laughter, happiness, heart-thumping excitement and soul-wrenching sorrow. They have given me what I consider to be some of the richest times of enjoyment in my life.
So why are they so dangerous?
For someone like me who is immersed in books, it is easy to lose your way. The characters within them can become more real than the people in your life. The adventures in them can make your own life dull in comparison. The satisfaction of happy endings can distort your real-life expectations.
Don’t get me wrong. Books offer us much. New worlds, ideas, emotions and thoughts. The epic romance, the love at first sight, the evil that is always punished, the bad guy who is always caught, the ending that is always happy.
I don’t blame you for wanting that. I want that. And it’s not something we’ll find very often, if at all, outside the covers of a book.
And this is where the danger lies.
Books teach us to expect these things. Books teach us not to settle, not to give in, until we have found these things. They promise that things like true love and happy endings are always attainable, if we could only find the right person, if we were only in the right circumstance, if we were only …. If only …. If ….
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. (2 Cor 10:3-5)
You see, our war is within. It’s a subtle one—you can’t hear it raging, most times. But it’s there. And our own thoughts will turn against us if we don’t take them captive, bend them to our own will.
If I get annoyed with my husband because he doesn’t give me the deep and mysterious affection that Mr. Rochester gave Jane Eyre, or because he doesn’t change for me as Mr. Darcy did for Elizabeth, that’s no one’s fault but my own. It’s wrong for me to have those thoughts, the thoughts that books put into my head, the ones that I allow to control my expectations of real-life people.
Admit it, it’s a little bit funny, isn’t it? To know that a book can change the invisible pathways of my mind? To know that I want my husband to be just a bit more like Mr. Rochester? To admit that my life frustrates me and makes me want to cry like a child who hasn’t got her way when things don’t go right?
I think Satan must think it’s funny, too, watching as I’m separated from God’s plan for me. Watching as I grow bitter with life and friends and the people I’m supposed to be showing God’s love, all because I want someone to sweep me off my feet, or because my life is not the adventure I’d like it to be, or because I must watch as someone I’m close to suffers an ending that is anything but happy.
Books. Are they right or wrong to teach us these things? Right or wrong to make us long for … more?
Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)
Books. Dangerous or not? Do they lead us to neglect the springs of life from our own hearts, and make us instead focus our eyes on the imaginary, the unattainable?
Books, after all, don’t control your mind. Media doesn’t control you mind. Your mother, your father, your spouse, your friends—they don’t control it either. Only you, and only God. And even God will not force His way in unless you invite Him. So it’s your choice, then. Just as God intended.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)
Trust in the Lord … that’s the key, isn’t it? Keep your eyes on Him. Read books, enjoy books, love books … but keep your eyes on God and His Kingdom.
This world isn’t likely to offer you the epic romances you read about. It’s certainly not going to solve every crime and punish every criminal. And ask anyone … happily-ever-afters are but a myth.
We live in a world of sin and darkness, after all.
But God is not vanquished by sin, and His light is not to be put out. What we look for in books and fail to find in real life—we may find in Him.
God gives us the fullest, most all-consuming love. He pursues us with relentless passion and gentle steadfastness. Isn’t that just what any true romantic longs for in the end?
God is the ultimate judge. Bad guys go free on earth too many times. But don’t believe for a moment that means their sins will go unpunished.
God is the creator of mystery, and therefore the solver of it. We should revel in His creation, even the mysteries of it, and look forward to one day having Him explain them to us.
Lastly, God is the maker of happy endings. Some of them do happen here on earth—some of them even rival the best books we’ve ever read. But nothing compares to the Final Happy Ending that we as Christians have to look forward to. Not a single book on earth can hold a candle to that.
All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read, which goes on forever, in which every chapter is better than the one before. (C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle)
This world is not our home. It is not where we belong. Books tell us of other worlds—let us not forget the one we are in, nor the one we are going to. Books give us happiness—let us not forget where our eternal happiness lies. Books tell us of adventures and heroes—let us not forget that the life God gave us is the greatest adventure of all, and that the only hero we need is our Savior, the maker of the truest Happy Ending.
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Ashlee was born and raised in the heart of Missouri. When not reading or writing, she divides her time chiefly between forest rambles, catching frogs in the creek with her young son, watching British television, and crocheting. She is currently working on a new YA fantasy duology. You may connect with Ashlee at her blog, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.
Find The Word Changers at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.
Oh, expectations, how you’ve bitten me in the ass. Not to mention my ex-dude’s expectations. It’s hard to plumb the line between fantasy and reality when you haven’t made enough dumbass decisions to manure the Seedbed of Wisdom.
And my expectations of an independent at-least-lower-middle class lifestyle after my college education may lead me to do another possibly stupid thing like join the military. Good pay, housing and medical included, and I get to travel, maybe overseas, maybe to Germany and Iceland and not Iraq. On the other hand, it’s the military, with all its bureaucratic bull. And I’m not sure how much of the Full Metal Jacket treatment I should expect or how well I’d put up with it. (I’ve asked nearly everyone else’s opinion, and I can’t stop myself from asking more and trying to get a better idea. What do you say, faceless Internet acquaintances?)
Yeah, no. I think you’d hate it. Isn’t there some type of teaching position your degree could translate over to?
Except I’m pretty sure I would hate teaching. Though W. Eric Myers was talking to me about the possibility of teaching conversational English in Japan or Korea. I think it’s a collegiate level, so they would have taken years of English and my crappy Japanese vocabulary wouldn’t hinder me.
Notleia, I don’t know that experience helps all that much in making life-changing decisions. I mean, the very nature of life-changing decisions means we haven’t been there before, so how can we know?
I’m of the mindset that this is the thing a Christian prays about and asks God for direction. I also don’t think He speaks in a still, small voice as often as He does through the wind or other circumstances He allows into our life. One thing we can’t discount is the desires of our heart. In other words, what do you want to do?
As you describe it, I guess you’re conflicted. But hey, very, very few things in life don’t come as part of a trade off. Most are not win-win. The good ones are, often, win-lose only a little. So what’s your take on this decision? And don’t leave out your spiritual life. Would such a move draw you closer to God? That sort of thing.
In the end, though, I think Ashlee’s point in this article is the key—trust in the Lord. Ask Him where He wants you, and trust Him to get you there and to be with you on the way.
Wow, well said! Wish I’d said all that, but guess its good that my daughter did!
What a heart-touching post! I, too, am addicted to books or reading, period. If I see a piece of paper fluttering down the sidewalk, I can’t resist picking it up to read what it says! Yes, you are right, books can give us wrong expectations about people, life and God. (I want to be all fluffy and sweet like Mrs. Rabbit, but my kids ain’t adorable little bunnies!) I love the verses you used to remind us to keep our hearts. Thank you for the post and for being honest.
Charmaine, I appreciate that! So glad you enjoyed! 🙂
I think this post applies to writers as well. I know I sometimes look at this mess of a world and have the urge to write about a different world where good guys triumph and bad guys get what’s coming to them. It’s when I shut myself into that imaginary world and ignore reality that problems arise.
Books with happy endings and where good triumphs over evil should inspire people to try and live better, more God-aligned lives, not cover their eyes and pretend everything is alright.