For students and teachers involved in academic life, early fall can feel like being shot out of a cannon. It can be jarring to move from the slow pace of summer rest into the overscheduled life of reading, writing, scheduling meetings, meeting deadlines, and so on. Hamlet’s response to Polonius’s question of what he was reading comes to mind: “words, words, words!”
As a writer, I find it consoling to contemplate a bookshelf and recall that each of the books on it represents a long labor of love. Writing a book takes a great deal of time and effort. It requires a love for one’s subject. It is an act of hope that someone, somewhere might benefit by one’s labor—perhaps even by experiencing some form of conversion, however small.
The next time I read someone’s words, I will resolve to hold that person—alive or dead—in my prayer. I will offer God thanks for his or her intellectual labor. I will pray in thanksgiving for the love that motivated the author to hold fast to the topic for months or years in the hope that it might give light to others.
But I will also have the courage to ask questions and lovingly offer critique if I see it. With intellectual humility, I will bring my questions into conversation with others in the hope of approaching the truth. In seeking truth I will remind myself that my desire for it is itself a seed of the Word, a dimension of my personhood which reflects God’s image. I will practice a spirituality of the question.