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?


AbiSomeone said…
I don't remember "learning to read" so much as I remember always reading...and going to the library and checking out as many books as allowed (six)....I have read most of C.S. Lewis, most of Tolkien, most of Lewis B. Smedes, Corrie ten Boom, Madeleine L'Engle, M. Scott Peck, G. Campbell Morgan, Harry Emmerson Fosdick, Philip Yancey, Robert Banks, Max Lucado...and a very eclectic smattering of commentaries, inspiration and other stuff...not to mention 10 translations of the Bible ;^) My reading is a bit like a glacier. You go along solid ice for a long while, then suddenly hit a deep crevass. In areas of great interest, I tend to read deeply. It's the hit and miss nature of the topics that some might feel are problematic :^)

Reading, for me, has meant everything! My formal education has been pitiful, sigh, and very disjointed -- I went to eight different schools, in three different states, for K-12. Reading was the only consistent thing in my life!

Even college was disjointed -- I took my freshman year right out of high school, then left for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be secretary to Corrie ten Boom (you're old enough to know who she is, aren't you?)...and didn't get back for my sophomore year until 17 years I graduated from college 21 years after graduating from high school!

My mantra became "If I can read, I can learn to do anything." And it certainly has been helpful. I am just about "over" being disappointed that I did not have better scholastic opportunities. (Robert and I were just talking about it last night!) I feel a bit like Soliari with Mozart...I knew enough to recognize and appreciate brilliance, but was only average, or perhaps just lacked opportunity and encouragement.

I am grateful to God that I did not turn bitter, but allowed the Holy Spirit to use me, incomplete education and all...and I have not been disappointed by the things I have been able to do and places I have been able to go.

Thank God for his love and grace and mercy....
Janet Woodlock said…
Well, I cannot imagine a better "education" than working for Corrie Ten Boom... and then being involved in mission (yes I've read your "10 - 20 - 30" post!) I think formal education is vastly over-rated and life experience (and reading) is vastly under-rated.

One of the negatives of college is probably hardly ever discussed... but it is the socialisation (even subtle brainwashing) that can occur as young students take on the "flavour" of a particular college / faculty. In smaller colleges, you'll notice people dress the same, voice similar opinions, even vote the same! The presuppositions of their academic disciplines become "facts" beyond dispute.

This is "normal"... we all learn by unconscious imitation. But I have a hunch that your chaotic and disrupted formal education is no "accident"... you are in fact a genuine original thinker and a genuine creator / innovator in part because you skipped the formal prolonged college socialisation / indoctrination process for far richer and diverse learning experiences. (although this has simply helped nurture what is already within you... the intuitive ability to see the big picture).

I'm sure you would have seen (as have I) people phenomenally well educated in a discipline who seem to utterly lack basic common sense in other areas. (eg they may have a PhD in biochemistry but have ruinously spoiled children). Actually, I think "common sense" needs to be renamed... it's seems to be an increasingly rare commodity.

I'm fond of C.S. Lewis, Tolkein, Peck, Ten Boom and Yancey (and of course our friend Alan Hirsch!)... I must check out some of your other fave authors.

Blessings on you Peggy!

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