Takeaways from forgotten books

Over the past year or so I have been devoting some time to divesting of some of my too large (and too underutilized) collection of books. This has not been easy. And no, this is not a post about downsizing or simplifying one’s life (well, at least, not in whole). It’s in part a post about serendipity, discovery, and excavation.

And yes, I have downsized some. I want to claim I have downsized a lot but others might can judge that better than I. I have donated many, gifted some and sold a few.

And then there are the discoveries. Some books I wanted and didn’t know I already had. I have found multiple titles of others.

And there are others I didn’t remember I owned, didn’t know when or even why I might have gotten them.

But then as I opened a few, I began to discover why they were in my hand and opened for reading.

One of those that got me to thinking (and meditating) is The Devout Life: William Law’s Understanding of Divine Love by Martin Israel and Neil Broadbent.

I knew William Law wrote A Serious Call to the Devout LIfe and had read a few pages of it, but found it slow going at that time and put it aside.

The Israel and Broadbent book, by bringing my attention to Law’s later writings, puts in front of me contrasts between Law’s early and later writings.

They claim that in Law’s early writings you will find “unflagging rigiorism” and “the main characteristic of the earlier Law was his severe harshness.” Further they claim that “half measures would never have sufficed for Law.” (p 20) I would have to say that I did find those elements in A Serious Call but also passages that stood out with such vivid detail they were hard to forget.

Then Israel and Broadbent report that as Law encountered the writings of Jacob Boehme he was introduced to a “new symbolic language through which the narrow, severe intensity of his devotional nature was released into a new freedom of love, joy, and praise.” (p 22)

Law’s volumes The Spirit of Prayer and The Spirit of Love are representative of the “later” Law.

All three of these works of Law as well as Boehme’s The Way to Christ can be had for free at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (www.ccel.org)

This got me thinking – have I ever read anything (or heard anything) that has had such a profound impact on my life and thinking? What have I encountered that led me to “a new freedom of love, joy, and praise,” and away from “harshness”? Or even more important, do I yet come close to such freedom?

May I offer a suggestion?

Why don’t we take some time today and over the next several days, to review our spiritual journeys? Looking back over the years, what changes do we notice? Are the changes for our betterment or not? Can we identify any books, events, people or practices/disciplines that helped provoke those changes?

Take some time to explore your journey. It might even offer something of a “roadmap” for the days to come.

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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