Primary school years
I've taken a while to reflect on the most significant influences on my spiritual development in the space between preschool and high school. Family example, family devotions, church, Sunday school teachers, Girls' Brigade, Christian camps at Mill Valley Ranch... there were so many influences that came to mind.
However, one of the influences that truly stands out (after reflection) is perhaps one of the easiest to overlook. In my first three years of school, I was taught to read. In one dull moment in the summer holidays between grade two and grade three I picked up a book... "The Boy Next Door" by Enid Blyton. It was the first chapter book (minimal pictures) I had ever read... but I was rapidly drawn in to the exciting story. I read for hours. I was hooked. I then proceeded to devour every Enid Blyton book in our house (a mercifully plentiful supply). As school returned, I then proceeded to read every Enid Blyton book in the school library (a pitifully small supply, as Enid Blyton had become politically incorrect in the late 60's /early '70's, although "The Faraway Tree" and the "Wishing Chair" series had somehow escaped the purge.) I then read every fiction book in the library remotely related to horses (it's a girl thing). I then read every non-fiction book related to horses. By this time, I was a fluent reader, and continued to devour books enthusiastically throughout my life (excepting when I first had children, when I was so tired I could barely comprehend a single sentence.)
My family emphasized the importance of daily devotions, so along with reading endless children's fiction, I began to read the bible using age appropriate "Scripture Union" reading guides. I have continued reading the bible (with more or less diligence) throughout my life. It is hard to underestimate the importance of this. The good evangelical teachers of my upbringing taught me that God speaks through the bible, that the bible reveals God's will, and that the bible helps our relationship with God. All of this rings true to me.
I also feel that the narratives of the bible have somehow shaped my character by revealing the character of God. The narratives of the bible are a rich source of inspiration and wisdom, and have profoundly shaped my ability to reflect theologically
Although it is the bible itself that has had the biggest impact on me, I have also been deeply influenced in my life by many, many other good Christian books. I have been able to "sit at the feet" of wonderful thinkers and teachers and ministry practitioners through the written word... even the "online" written word.
So I'd like to extend my deep gratitude to all the early primary teachers of the world (and to my own teachers in particular) for the gift of reading. I struggle to imagine my life without the written word. In my opinion, the greatest blessing of all the blessings literacy brings is revealing more of the Word... my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. As an aside, one wonders what the early evangelicals who campaigned for universal primary education (so all would be able to read the scriptures for themselves) would think of our society today... where so many can read but so few dig into the treasures of the bible... but perhaps that is a reflection best left for another day!
So what does reading mean to you? What books have influenced you? What does the bible mean to you? And what are the other childhood influences that shape your life today?