I just returned from a 10 day trip to the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Every time I go on a trip, even if it’s just a day trip to the in-laws, I carefully plan which books to bring. Some people are meticulous about the clothes that they pack, whether the outfits will match, and making sure they are prepared for any and every weather condition. That’s how I am when it comes to the books I bring.
I debated how many to bring, I tried to calculate the perfect amount of material, so that I wasn’t left without something to read, but didn’t overpack. Here’s what I ended up with:
- Charles Spurgeon : Beside Still Waters – the daily devotional that I am currently reading.
- The Bible (a compact version).
- Bruce Olson: Bruchko
- Dan Fuller: Gospel and Law: Contrast or Continuum?
- John Piper: A Sweet and Bitter Providence
- Tony Carter: Blood Work
- Kevin DeYoung: The Holy Spirit
- Kevin DeYoung: Crazy Busy (sample)
- Jonathan Edwards: Volume 1
I was partway through Bruchko, Gospel and Law, and Edwards “True Virtue” when I left on the trip. By the end of the trip, all I had left was Volume 1, and I started Justification by Faith Alone on the plane trip back.
Some might think this is ridiculous. What is the purpose of your trip, to do short term missions or to read books? How much space did you use up schlepping your mini library halfway through the Caribbean?
For starters, I had two extended layovers, while the rest of the group was on another flight. I wanted to make the best use of the time. I also determined that I would never sacrifice relational time with people for the sake of reading a book. At one point in the trip, after an hour long conversation, my brother-in-law looked at me and said, “I suppose I’m keeping you from reading, huh?” “Not at all,” I replied. “I can read anytime. When there are people to connect to, that is the priority.” Nevertheless, there are dozens of opportunities every day to read, if only one has a book available. The same brother-in-law borrowed two books at one point in the trip 🙂
At one point, we trekked from San Juan, D.R., to Dajabon, D.R. along the “International Highway”, DR-45. 7 of us in a small SUV, so the front seat was coveted, for the leg room, as well as the views. When I finally got my turn in the front seat, I pulled out Volume 1, and immediately was heckled. “No books allowed in the front seat.” “Only if it’s not a theology book,” another chimed in. Technically, The Nature of True Virtue is more philosophy than theology. I protested, and was allowed my combination of sight-seeing, and wading through Edwards.
A Running Commentary
I found some enjoyable providences while reading during the trip. Like when Pastor Marty preached a message on December 8th on Lydia from Acts 16, emphasizing that she was a very sincere and religious lost woman, until the Lord “opened her heart.”
Then I read in True Virtue, Chapter 4 on “Self-Love,” and Ch. 5 on “Natural Conscience and Moral Sense,” how people can “approve of true virtue, and disapprove and condemn the want of it, and opposition to it; and yet without seeing the true beauty of it.” (p. 134 in Volume 1, Banner of Truth)
This whole section, and really the entire work as a whole, develops philosophically how noble and sincere and seemingly virtuous a person can be, yet without any true love for God, and thus no true virtue, as was Lydia. The parallels were unmistakable.
As I read throughout the trip, I saw several other instances where what I read related directly to what we were experiencing.
I had just read this in A Sweet and Bitter Providence:
At one level, the message of the book of Ruth is that the life of the godly is not a straight line to glory, but they do get there. The life of the godly is not an Interstate through Nebraska but a state road through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee. There are rockslides and precipices and dark mists and bears and slippery curves and hairpin turns that make you go backward in order to go forward. But all along this hazardous, twisted road that doesn’t let you see very far ahead, there are frequent signs that say, “The best is yet to come.” (99-100)
Then we embarked on our memorable journey on Highway 45 from San Juan to Dajabon through the mountains. It was such a vivid picture and brought the point home with remarkable significance. I have never been on a mountain road so steep, so winding, and so treacherous as DR-45. And yet, I could see God’s hand in it every step of the way. Thanks Pastor John.
A Grand Finale
We were in the airport in Santo Domingo, checking my backpack through security. It went through the x-ray conveyor and was flagged as suspicious. It must have been a couple of souvenirs in a pouch or something. The security agent started going through the bag, and then he got to the books. He proceeded to take each book, one at a time, and flip through the pages. I guess to see what I was hiding in them. I almost said said something when he got to Volume 1, to the effect of “that’s a good one!” but I wasn’t up for attempting it in spanish.
In the end, the picture you see at the top, was reproduced on the counter, until the agent pronounced it all clear, and let me on my way.
Ah well, such is what happens when you pack books for a trip like other people pack t-shirts.