Jack is learning to read! It’s just as good as first steps and first words to me. Sometimes he is so focused. I watch his mouth silently and slowly form shapes for sounds he sees. Eventually the sounds pop out of his mouth and he immediately looks up to me excitedly, eager to know if he got it right.
Then there are those other times when he makes things up. Why would he make things up? There’s at least two reasons and both of them have to do with looking beyond the mark. In this case, the marks are the letters and the letters are the words.
Problem 1. Pictures. I understand that sometimes children are encouraged to look at pictures to give them clues for the text. In Jack’s case, the pictures mislead him and carry him away from what’s actually written – strange paths.
Problem 2. “I got it” mentality – where he sees the first letter or two and is satisfied. He assumes he knows the rest of the word based on the first 1-2 letters and ends up, again, creating a story that just isn’t there.
I can’t help but compare this to what it’s like reading the scriptures. How often do we rely on the pictures of a Christian life? These pictures can be how we perceive other people living the gospel, how it is explained to us, or how we wish it to be. The pictures in our minds may be made of memories and experiences that we are so confident in, that we count them as word. But, what if the pictures just don’t match the text?
And the “I got it” mentality. This is any easy trap, especially for long-time church goers. You think you know the scriptures and the stories. You’ve got the pictures in your mind, “I got it.” You and me then merely nod to the real word in our self-confident blindness.
Do you see this in other areas of your life too? Where you know something so well that you almost see it done in your mind before you ever do it? I’ve caught myself lately doing this with exercise. I’ll do 10 push-ups on my own then justify, that’s pretty much 30. Or practicing scales for singing, I get through 2 or 3 minutes and, tiring of them, conclude it’s pretty much the same as fifteen, right! Why do more?
The answer is because sort-of doing and really doing are not equal. Something changes inside me when I actually do the physical work of exercise. Something changes inside me when I practice – bad habits are subdued and new possibilities take shape. It’s the same with reading the scriptures, letter for letter and word for word. The spirit and the words teach me and something changes inside of me. It’s always for the better.
When Jack is stuck in one of these problems, he starts to get really frustrated and discouraged. Pretty soon he’s looking out the window or looking at me while guessing at words. I always tell him, “The answers are there. Read them. Use your skills.” How can he read and sound out when he’s not even looking at the letters?
We do this. The times I am flailing and searching for something to grasp, much in the same way Jack is searching out the window for his answers, I struggle and despair forgetting that the answers are there in front of me if I will simplify and focus – just like they are for Jack. Looking away from the words to the “pictures” or the million distractions around us for answers will never tell us exactly what is in the book.
Let’s learn to read along with Jack. Let’s see what the scriptures really say by giving them focus and time. You know the saying, “The book is better than the movie?” I have a hunch that the book, read with the spirit, will be better than the moving pictures in our minds and that it will change us on the inside – always for the better.
Links for further study:
Swapping 10 Minutes of social media time –Scripture Study Challenge
Unconditional love in the scriptures? Abide In My Love
Looking beyond the mark – For Our Spiritual Development and Learning
If you believe all these things see that ye do them. Mosiah 4:10