This post was featured in Joseph Nally’s blog last year.
When you open the front cover of a book, you symbolically open a door to your mind. You are letting the author of that book to enter your being and make changes there.
Reading is a form of transaction. You are giving the author—stranger, friend, or foe—a piece of your life, your time, and your thoughts. The author has the opportunity to make claims, explain them, and persuade you to think like he does. In exchange, he is offering you enlightenment, new knowledge, new line of thinking, or perhaps just an opportunity to exercise your brain and refine your thoughts.
Reading is a form of communion. But it is not like any other hangout session as we often have with our friends and acquaintances. Only those in our innermost circle get the license to hearing our deepest thoughts and convictions for an extended amount of time.
In reading, however, you and the author have access to each other’s deep convictions for hours at end. You can’t cut each other’s sentences or rebut thoughts instantly. The luxury of time allows you to understand the other side much more, if you let him finish his thoughts to the end of the book.
Reading changes you. Consciously or not, your mind changes slightly with every book you read. You may conform to the author’s ideas or reject them. In either case your mind will take a different shape than when you first began.
Which is why a Christian should take care when choosing his reading materials, for he may end up conforming to a shape contrary to what he intended. Because of the intimate communion that takes place in reading, the author will always imprint a certain character of himself to the reader.
Yet what better way it is to spend a piece of your life with the Book that contains the Word of life. The Bible, when read with awe and respect, opens up a communion with an Author who transcends matter, time, and space. It is a mind-to-mind communion with God, the Creator of the universe. Who better than Him to transform and change you? Whose ideas are better to agree with? And whose mind is better to mirror than God’s? Any other book, even a Christian one, must needs take a lesser rank.
Visit many good books, but live in the Bible. – Charles Spurgeon
I belong to a community of faith—the Seventh-day Adventist faith—that is presently having its quinquennial, worldwide conference in San Antonio, TX. I am not in San Antonio, but I too want to celebrate my identity. So here are the reasons on why I love being an Adventist.
I love being an Adventist because it gives me a sense of identity as an individual and as part of a people. It sheds light on who I am in the eyes of God and on humanity in the eyes of God. The elaborate plan of salvation as shown in the sanctuary system tells me the high regard that God puts on human souls, and the length and depth of His efforts to redeem a seemingly hopeless race.
Moreover, being a Seventh-day Adventist tells me where I am in human history and subsequently, my role here on earth. It comes with a high and ambitious mission that requires every talent and dedication.
Sanctity of Time
I love being an Adventist because it teaches me the discipline of quietness and rest. The gift of the Sabbath, the sanctity of time, tells me that humanity is not here just to do, but also to be. More importantly, to be with God. Silence and stillness is not easy to master, especially in a hyperactive world, but the Sabbath comes every week, wooing me to practice and enjoy true rest.
This precious time provides a space for awe, reverence, and wonder in my life. And I have come to believe that a life without wonder is an unhappy one. The moments when I am overwhelmed with beauty and grandeur are most refreshing, and in the Sabbath, a door is opened to access the wonder that is God.
I love being an Adventist because I have many opportunities to be reminded of my relationship with God in tangible ways. The opportunities come whenever I eat (or don’t eat), drink (or don’t drink), and work (or don’t work). I love that a relationship with God is not just a mental assent, but is a day-to-day reality. I learn that any loving relationship has requirements, and the fulfillment of these determines whether a relationship grows or deteriorates.
I love that God has something required of me, among which are to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with Him. It elevates my existence and dignity as a human being, knowing that I can do something to please God. He is not indifferent to my works.
Everything I do and don’t do, every initiative and restraint, is an opportunity to say “I love You” and that “You are Lord over me.” It infuses every aspect of life and gives meaning to the daily, sometimes mundane, things.
I love that Adventism demands something of me. A faith that is not worth giving all is not worth having, and a commitment without requirements is questionable. Adventism believes something more in me, calling me to a life that’s not ordinary, and I gladly respond, Yes!
This Is My Story, part 3: How a Quiet Girl Found Her Voice.
When God came into my life, He liberated me from me.
If you had known me when I was a teenager, spanning the time I was in middle school, high school, and early college, you would’ve known me as a quiet and very inhibited person (unless I was very comfortable with you). During my freshman year, I was basically very close to mute. If anyone wants to fact-check me, I can refer you to a list of people who can attest to this. I would hang out, eat, and laugh with everyone, but I wouldn’t actually say much, or anything.
It was not because I didn’t want to say anything. It was because I didn’t have anything to say.
In fact, I still abide by this personal rule. I don’t feel like I have to say something if I don’t have anything to say that is of consequence. But regardless, I still didn’t like the fact that I was quiet. I felt trapped in a body, hidden behind a sealed mouth. And thus the story began.
The beginning of my personality transformation coincided with the beginning of my conversion. During my first year in college, the time when I realized how hard it was for me to get comfortable in new situations was about the same time I realized that my faith lacked substance. I grew up a Seventh-day Adventist and had a real experience with Jesus when I was baptized at 14, but most things I knew were hearsays, second hand knowledge. Other people told me and I believed them. By the time I got to college, I had never studied the Bible. I had read the Bible, but I never studied it.
Which was why when I came across a group of young people who studied the Bible—as in not reading it cursorily, but squeezing every essence of the words—I was blown away. I still remember the first Bible study I had in my life, once upon a Friday night in a classroom at Boston University, led by the ever-so-awesome Jen Song. It was on Daniel 1, about young Daniel at the University of Babylon, standing true to principle. What a timely message for this new freshman. I was amazed at how relevant the Bible could be: These words could actually speak to me!
If I had missed a precious lesson in a familiar passage, what else could I have missed? A whole lot, as it turned out. And so for that entire year, I devoured all kinds of books, resources, and sermons to answer the question, What is Adventism and why am I a Seventh-day Adventist? Most importantly, I started learning how to meditate on the Bible. I read the Desire of Ages in a month. My hunger for spiritual things was deep and I took hold on anything I could.
It was at this hungry stage that messages from GYC 2003 came to me. Some people from the Boston Korean Church went and brought back tapes from the conference (yes, they were tapes back then). I listened to them, and let’s just say I was never the same again. Talk about being blown away. The theme, Higher Than The Highest, taken from the quote in Education, p. 18, “Higher than the highest human thought can reach is God’s ideal for His children” especially struck me. What?! You mean God has ambitions for me that are even higher than my school, my parents? I thought MIT was pretty good.
So even though I was quiet on the outside, in reality my mind was buzzing and loud on the inside. I was especially quiet in church settings because I felt spiritually lacking and didn’t have anything to give. But in my quietness, I was absorbing and soaking up everything that everyone said in Bible studies, discussions, and sermons like a dry sponge. I was like an empty cup, and God started filling me.
As God filled my soul with understanding, experiences with Him, knowledge of who He is and how He deals with His children, my cup began to be filled and eventually overflowed. And with that overflowing, came my voice.
Now I could share insights and not feel like a fake. I could testify what God had taught me in real life experiences. I spent 10 weeks going door-to-door the summer after my junior year, and nothing cured shyness like canvassing could. I kept receiving and kept giving. Now I had something to say; God had put words in my mouth.
The crazy thing was that it didn’t stop there, since God not only gave me a voice in spiritual settings, but also in secular and social settings. These days, I’m hardly shy or quiet, except in special circumstances.
Once Jesus said to a woman, “But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:14) To me, that fountain is my voice.