Tonight I begin my first reading retreat. I will be going to a hotel for two nights to sit at the desk, drink lots of coffee, and spend an extended amount of time reading.
I first heard of the idea from Tony Reinke, who mentioned it on a podcast I was listening to. He also has written about the idea on his blog. The purpose is to get away with a bunch of books about a certain topic of interest and read without distractions.
I was thrilled at the idea, but did not think I'd do it anytime soon. With a busy church job, two young kids, and another on the way, it undoubtedly seemed selfish and not practical. But then, my wife surprised me with the retreat as my anniversary gift. She booked two hotel nights about an hour away and budgeted out some money for food. So, by God’s grace shining through her kindness, I will be going this evening.
My chosen topic of interest is knowing Christ. I've slowly been reading Mark Jones' Knowing Christ, and I have found it enlightening and soul-stirring to witness Jones meditate deeply on who Christ was and is. I realized that I have obviously read many books having to do with Christ—even studied a decent amount about the work of Christ. But I have not read too many books directly on Christ himself, especially focusing on the glories of who he was when he was here 2,000 years ago. So, digging into this topic will be my focus on this retreat.
I am bringing along eleven books towards this purpose. They are listed below from oldest to newest. (There are [obviously] many other books about Christ I wish I could have brought. But for this retreat, I bought only three books; the eight others I previously owned.)
Athanasius, On the Incarnation
Thomas Goodwin, The Heart of Christ
John Owen, The Glory of Christ
Karl Barth, On the Humanity of God
J. Oswald Sanders, The Incomparable Christ
Ron Rhodes, Christ Before the Manger
Robert Rasmussen, Imagine Meeting Him
Chris Wright, Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament
Christopher Morgan and Robert Peterson, The Deity of Christ
Michael Reeves, Rejoicing in Christ
Mark Jones, Knowing Christ
Logistically, I will be turning off my phone, except for checking it once at the end of the day—my wife will be able to reach me for emergencies through the hotel line. I will be arriving at my hotel around 9pm this (Thursday) evening and checking out of the hotel at 12pm on Saturday. During this time, I will be reading as much as possible. (Also during this time, I will be consuming a lot of coffee! I have intentionally had less coffee this week so the caffeine might have more effect on Friday and Saturday morning.)
Reinke commented that his goal on such retreats is to read twelve hours a day. He believes reading for extended periods of time is an important ability to have in our digitally distracting age. I agree, and although I'll only have one day (Friday) where that twelve hours could happen, I look forward to the challenge (and joy!) of reading for such a prolonged period of time tonight, tomorrow, and Saturday morning. However, I also know I've never done anything like this before. I've read a good amount and consistently in recent years, but I have never read for twelve hours in one day! I will discover if my brain currently has such an ability. Yet if not, hopefully one day it will.
Concerning which of the above books I will read during my time, my aim is not to read all the way through multiple books. I am about half way through Jones' Knowing Christ and imagine I will finish that work. But besides this, I will be digging in to the others listed above about Christ as I see fit. This, I hope, will be freeing and exciting.
All in all, I look much forward to the time. I'm especially thankful to my wife for organizing and allowing such a trip. And I'll most likely post about the experience on here in the future.
Here's to my next 39 hours with Christ, his word, and books (and of course, lots of coffee)! Tolle lege! Tolle lege!