Lillian Daniel: Magical Thinking About Unread Books


I am always carrying way too much stuff around. I live only four blocks from the church where I am a pastor, but I am embarrassed at how often I drive there. I drive because of all the stuff I haul from one place to another. It is common for me to be carrying two, maybe three bags and an armful of books.

I am always carrying books around in the hope of reading them. It's as if I believe that if I continually carry piles of books from my church, to my car, to my home and then back to church again, the information from all those books will somehow just sink into my aching arms without my actually reading them.

I hold the same magical thinking about the tall pile of books on my bedside table. Perhaps in the middle of the night their best thoughts will enter my brain telepathically. So by no means should I ever move them away to another part of the house, lest I miss a subconscious intellectual breakthrough in the middle of the night.

I think of Jesus saying, "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." I don't think Jesus was promising to lighten our burdens for us but reminding us that often, that's a job we can do for ourselves.

If I'm honest, I drag those books from place to place out of a misplaced sense of obligation. I want to be the person who has read all those books but if my behavior is any evidence, I don't really want to read them after all.

Maybe, in hauling them around, I just want to be the person who looks like she is reading all those books.

Often the heaviest loads we carry are the ones we impose on ourselves.

Taken with permission from