It first started on a long road trip with my wife many years ago. We knew that we had many hours ahead of us in the car together and probably had already made mental notes about how to spend that time. For quite a while we were busy making sure that our young boys had what they needed and playing the typical games that all parents play to keep their kids occupied noticing the countryside that we were passing and the cars that were driving in the same direction that we were. After a while the boys drifted off to sleep and we began to listen to some music, checked out if there were any local radio stations we might like and talked about what was going on in our lives. Then out of the blue, Deb said the words that would change our lives, “Would you like me to read to you?” While we were both book lovers, we had different tastes in books, and I was not sure this was a particularly good idea. Besides, wasn’t this a bit childish? Without hesitation, though, I quickly said yes.
I am not sure what that first book was, but it very well could have been one of the books from the Mitford series written by Jan Karon (as we read all of those books together over the years). I do remember being rapidly drawn into the world of Father Tim and the fictional town of Mitford, NC. To that point, I had not been a big fan of Christian fiction and had never heard of this author. As Deb read, I could not believe how quickly I got wrapped up in the story and did not want her to stop. The writing was actually quite good and the story was really compelling. I was hooked, not just to high quality Christian fiction, but to the idea of reading out loud with and to my spouse.
As the years have passed, this activity has not always been as consistent in our lives as I would have liked. In some years, we primarily found time to do this on long trips where we first started the practice. In recent years, however, that has really changed. Deb and I now talk quite a bit about books that we would like to share by reading them together. It has become a subject of joy and anticipation for each of us and is not something that we have to find time to do. We can’t wait to carve out more time each day for this activity.
I am often asked how I have time to read so many books and I have previously written about several other practices that I have incorporated into my life to make that possible. This concept of reading out loud to each other, however, has had many other positive impacts aside from allowing me to check one more book off the list of books that I had planned to read. As we are now moving into the early stages of the “empty nest” syndrome and our boys are now young adults, we have more time available to us that used to be consumed by the realities of parental responsibilities. Far too many couples seem to draw apart at this stage of life as they discover that their interests are diverging. We were tempted by that too. Deb likes to draw and do artwork and I like to watch soccer. Our reading to each other has changed all of that for us now. While we still love art and soccer, we love reading even more and delight in the shared experience of discovering a book together.
Reading out loud to your spouse is not a guaranteed formula to fix a broken marriage, but it is a great way to strengthen a friendship. I have learned so much more about Deb by learning about the literary characters that she loves. We often find ourselves translating real life with references to books that we have just finished. After twenty five years of marriage, I am constantly amazed at how much more I have to learn about this wonderful person that God has placed in my life. As we do this more and more in the years to come, I look forward to seeing how God will reveal more of Himself to each of us as we apply these same principles to His word and more great Christian books.