OK, I’ll confess, I’m a browser. I’ve been a browser for a long time, long before the term became a software category.
My browsing goes back to when I was in elementary school and our family would drive to my grandparents’ house several hours away. In the days before personal music devices or in-car DVD players, back when kids in the backseat had to entertain themselves, I used to grab one of the encyclopedias off the shelf to read on the trip. Believe me, I understand how nerdy that sounds, over-the-top nerdy, but if you know me at all you shouldn’t be surprised. When I told Cyndi about the encyclopedia thing she just rolled her eyes and thought I was joking until my mom confirmed the story. I was lucky I didn’t tell her about it when we were just dating before she’d committed to me.
The reason I loved encyclopedias was because you saw dozens of interesting pieces while looking up whatever it was that you started looking for. For example, if I was interested in reading about the Apollo space program, which I often was, and who wouldn’t have been, I had to flick past a lot of pages on my way to “Apollo,” and every one of those pages had an article I wanted to know about as soon as I saw it. And since it took a long time to drive from Kermit to San Antonio in a Volkswagen Squareback, I was in no hurry. I learned a lot.
As it turns out, I enjoy two divergent systems of learning. I like to take on a subject and read a dozen books to gain some form of edge-to-edge domain knowledge about the topic. It’s impossible to know if the book you read is a good one, or an accurate one, until you read several. I’m bugged by one-book experts … you know, the guys who read one book or one magazine article and suddenly they are handing out advice. I don’t want to be that guy.
But more often I learn from browsing -picking up bits and pieces of cool information from a wide variety of topics. In that case, I’m not trying to learn the subject in-depth, but exploring for links to other things, and experimenting with underlying meaning, and all of that.
I have a favorite study carrel in the Midland County Library (I won’t tell you where it is because you’ll get there before I do and I’ll have to find another), and one of the reasons I like it, besides seclusion, is that the path takes me past books about mountains, and books about aviation, and books about space travel. Who could possible walk past a buffet like that without pulling a book or two off the shelf to flip through while their laptop is booting up? Not me. I cannot keep from glancing at the titles as I walk past. Someday I’ll have browsed all the books on my path to the carrel and I’ll have to move further in to see what the next aisle has to offer. I can’t wait.
One of my favorite Bible stories is from the Old Testament, II Kings 22, and while it isn’t exactly about browsing, it is about what can happen when you stumble upon something important. The story tells about a time when King Josiah commissioned the cleaning and repair of the temple, not a lot different from what I do about every six months in my garage - rebuild, restack, throw away - except that I clean for the sake of convenience and Josiah was hoping to reconnect with God. In the process of cleaning the temple treasury, a man named Hilkiah found something that had been lost. “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord,” he said.
His discovery changed the trajectory of Josiah and nation of Judah. Apparently the Book of the Law had been lost for a long time, and they had been trying to follow God from memory and momentum. The very fact something so significant was lost shows how far the nation had drifted from God.
But the discovery of the Book brought about a national spiritual revival. New information changed their world, and changed it toward God. It’s one of the changes I hope for in my own life whenever I read through the Bible. I want to be surprised by the stories I might never know if I read only my favorite parts. I need to read new stuff, uncomfortable stuff, opposing ideas, to give God a clear shot at my heart, soul, and mind. I want God to speak truth into my heart and not just to the familiar and safe places.
So, my challenge to you is this: Won’t you join me as a browser? Pick up something new and take a look. Take your time. And let me know what you learn.
Here is a place to start, the best browsing website: www.howstuffworks.com
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32
To learn about Berry’s books, “Running With God,” go to www.runningwithgodonline.com , or “Retreating With God,” go to www.retreatingwithgod.com ,… Follow Berry on Twitter at @berrysimpson or on Facebook … Contact Berry directly: firstname.lastname@example.org … To post a comment or subscribe to this free journal: www.journalentries.org