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Watch What You Read

I’m a huge reader. Ever since I was a little child and my mom taught me how to read, I’ve enjoyed immersing myself in the world of books. I always have a book I’m currently reading, and I carry a book with me wherever I go, just in case I have some free time. A little obsessive, maybe.

When I lived at home with my family, I read whatever I got my hands on. My parents had many books, and there were only a limited amount of those in the house I wasn’t allowed to read until “I was older.” But as soon as I graduated, got a kindle, and decided I was going to be a writer, I started branching out with what I read. I’m a YA fiction writer, after all, so I felt the need to read the popular books in that genre. I wanted to be up-to-date on all the hottest books of the year.

I recently realized, though, that reading anything I could get my hands on is not a good idea. There are millions of books out there, and, just because they’re popular, it doesn’t mean they’re worth reading. I realized that I needed to start filtering what I was reading.

What do I mean by that?

I used to think that, because I don’t see scenes when I read, it’s okay to read things that I’d refuse to watch. For example, you could not get me to watch any movie based on a Stephen King novel. I hate horror and jump scares. In books, however, I can handle it. I can’t stand seeing blood and guts, but if I read a description of them in a book, I’m fine. So I had a much different standard when it came to reading books.

For a long time, my thought process was the same when it came to sexual content. I’m going to be blunt. While you’d most likely never watch (or admit to watching) a sex scene, I feel as if reading about one isn’t as frowned upon. After all, you’re not seeing it happen. That was the way I thought, so when I came to a part in the book where things got intense, I wouldn’t put the book down; I’d keep going. It’s a lot harder to stop reading a book than to turn off a show. If you’re reading a book, you’re invested. I’d always use the excuse that I’m reading it for the writing and the plot, so I could handle some of the less moral scenes.

But I started to feel a change in me. My thoughts weren’t pure or pleasing to God. Even though I wasn’t trying to think about the words I’d read, they still showed up in my subconscious. They infected my thought life, taking it where it shouldn’t go.

The more I study God’s word, the more I see how important the mind is. That’s what the enemy targets; that’s what controls your actions and choices. One little idea can grow and spread, changing entire lives. That’s why the Bible says to only think on those things that are true, right, and pure. (Phil. 4:8) It says to capture every thought and make sure it’s pleasing to God before it lands in your heart, influencing your actions. (2 Cor. 10:5) What you put in is what will come out. Even if you don’t notice right away the effect something has on you, it’s still going into your mind and heart, shaping you in some small way. That’s why it’s so vital to “feed” your mind truth.

I know this probably isn’t the most popular approach to this issue, but then again, Christianity was never about being the most popular. Sometimes doing the right thing will seem more annoying than freeing. But how much is your spiritual wellbeing worth? Is it worth giving up certain movies and books? If not, ask yourself why. What is the most important to you?

I still have a hard time with discernment in this issue. I hate quitting books. I don’t like being the party-pooper at a movie night, too, or changing the radio station when everyone else likes the song. But I want my thoughts to be pleasing to God. I want to mirror Him in the way I live. So I will put the book down if it is dragging my thought life down. Because I’ve realized that my mind is so much more important than any book I could enjoy reading.

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