Unhurried Delight

Every year as part of maintaining “good ministerial standing,” our denomination requires its pastors to fill in a form in which we list educational and personal growth experiences, such as courses taken, workshops or conferences attended, and books read. I keep track of what I’ve read in a little notebook (and on Goodreads) and so I go back and look at what I’ve read.

What troubled me this time around is that I couldn’t remember a thing about one or two of the books I had read this year. I remember reading them (I think), but I don’t remember what they said. Which makes me wonder, why did I read them?

Eugene Peterson said somewhere (but I’m quoting his Twitter feed, and the same quote pops up every now and then), “Reading is a gift, but only if the words are taken into the soul – eaten, chewed, gnawed, received in unhurried delight.” Coincidentally, it was one of Peterson’s books that I don’t remember anything about.

His words get me every time. How often do I read with “unhurried delight”? Rarely. Usually I’m more concerned with getting through the book and adding it to my “books read” notebook. Part of the problem is that I have so many books that I want to read (and have already purchased in anticipation of reading them) that I feel like I can’t keep up, so I read quickly if I can.

Occasionally a book will be so striking that I soak it up in a hurry and remember it, but that’s not normally the case. But what’s the point in reading if I can’t remember it? Is there value in reading simply for the sake of reading and being changed in small ways along the way? I think so.

On the other hand, there’s really little value in hurrying through a book if I won’t remember any of it anyway.

I need more “unhurried delight” in my life—not just in what I read, but in all of my life.

2 thoughts on “Unhurried Delight

  1. Toni

    Unhurried delight sounds to me like the phrase virgin bliss that crops up in some religious writings. Not that I’m criticising EP, but it seems to me one of those phrases where the words are familiar but don’t have the usual meaning we attribute to them.

    Few Christian books seem written to produce unhurried delight, rather they are dry and rapid reading is required to finish them before I can’t bear any more or lose interest. That’s not to say there aren’t nuggets to be mined out, but they usually require spadework, rather than just popping up in one’s path to be picked up and enjoyed. I wonder what EP’s books are like, and whether they fit that description?

    I remember the last books that I read for my own pleasure: some of the silly ‘Martian’ series by Edgar Rice Burroughs just after the time we went to France about 3 or 4 years ago. Everything since then has been for the sake of learning and understanding, not that there isn’t a pleasure in that, but it’s not unhurried delight either.

  2. Sammy

    I happened upon this site, because I had googled “Mechlin lace”, which I had read in PGWodehouse again and again since teenagerhood, half a century ago.

    I am indebted to Marc for coming up with the phrase ” unhurried delight”, which I not only take when reading PGW, but also attempt during my daily (Jewish) prayers.

    Sometimes, in the latter case, successfully.

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