“The world is indeed full of peril, & in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, & though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.”
~ JRR Tolkien // The Fellowship of the Ring
Friday afternoon, I was feeling a bit out of sorts. I’d spend most of the day packaging orders for lovely humans who had bought my debut novel, Southpaw. All was going well, until it wasn’t.
Several snags came up that were going to result in me having to take yet another trip to the store for more supplies & in me having to un-package a few orders ’cause of mistakes. My mood soured & I struggled to not take my frustration out on those around me but to, instead bring it to Christ & leave it there.
Then, my mom reminded me she was going to take me to a used bookstore as a lil treat (this was a ruse, I later found out…my family had planned a surprise book release party for me that night & needed to shoo me out of the house so they could prep). But I knew none of this so off I went to a used bookstore I’d been longing to visit for over a year now.
Lovely humans, as soon as I set foot in that delightful place, the oddest yet most familiar thing happened. A sort of peace descended over my mixed-up heart & I stood there, breathing in the musty, sharp, comforting odour of old books with history between their pages.
If you know me at all, it’s no secret that books thrill my soul like little else can (except for things like good coffee, good conversation, & good sights). So stepping into a used bookstore is always a bit like coming Home. I can easily spend hours in one (& have on several occasions, including 1 time 2 years ago when 2 friends & I were neck-deep in our explorations for about 2 hours, much to the annoyance of our 4th friend haha)
So I stood there, giddily, hungrily eyeing alll the shelves, moving quietly & slowly between aisles, craning my neck up to catch titles on the top shelves, & crouching low with my neck at an awful angle to catch titles on the bottom shelves.
It was just so…peaceful. I don’t think there was any music playing (I can’t really quite remember…) & the only background noise was the quirky conversation of the 2 delightful, old shop attendants: a man & a woman in their late mid-late 70s who chattered on about books & life in the old days.
I’d slipped in about half an hour before closing time & then a man came in about 10-ish minutes before closing time & the attendants weren’t pushy at all but left us to our slow perusing without any reminders that the store was closing soon.
Rows of books stared at me as I stared right back.
The wonderful thing about used bookstores, apart from the glorious Used-Book Smell, is the books have History. They’ve been owned by someone else, pages yellowed with age or covers worn with use. Even the ones that have been gently-used have been in the hands of a stranger. & I think that’s fascinating. We’re holding a lil piece of someone else when we pick up a used book from a bookstore. We’re touching timelines & all because of words & stories & ideas.
But the strange thing about this particular used bookstore was its location. It’s behind a strip club.
The “Gentleman’s Lounge” (where anyone but gentlemen go) is on a small incline above/in front of the used bookstore. It’s a black/dark grey building without any windows but with a lit-up sign There’s a bit of trees which separate the 2 buildings but you’ve got to pass by the darker place to get to the one full of light.
& it struck me, if that isn’t just like Life.
There’s much Darkness in this world & you didn’t need me to tell you that. Sin runs rampant, leaving scars & stains, running rivers of blood & pain & destruction through our landscape. There’s sin without & sin within. & I experienced both that Friday:
my foul mood & the Gentleman’s Lounge.
& in the midst of all that was a lil used bookstore in an old warehouse, quietly holding onto Hope & keeping the flames alive, shining hard for anyone who wanted to come in out of the Storm & remember the way Home.
& that’s how we are to be too, lovely humans. Lil lighthouses of Hope & beacons of Truth in a dark world. If Christ has saved us, He’s given us a Stewardship: His Gospel. We’ve got what this Middle Earth so despearately needs: fearless courage & a wild Hope.
Men, & women too at times, are paying money for sights that only those joined in the marriage covenant, only those who love each other 1st as the Most High intended, should see;
paying to have their senses tickled & losing their souls in the transaction.
Their lust is proof of a deeper issue: the gaping void they’re trying to fill with everything except what will truly satisfy.
& it’s not just in strip clubs. It’s wherever humans are shaking their fists in silent or raging defiance against their Creator. & in the midst of that madness, He’s called us to be shining lights; to have respect to the Covenant because the dark places of this earth are full of the haunts of cruelty (Psalm 74:20).
The peace I felt in the used bookstore is but a shadow of the true Peace, an echo of the Peace that passes all understanding & keeps our hearts despite our feelings, our near-despair, our weakness & sadness & doubt. It’s the Peace of sins forgiven, a right standing with the Most High, & the unshakeable love of our Saviour.
There are indeed many dark places in our world. The haunts of cruetly are deep & fierce but the love of Christ is deeper & fiercer still & it’s His Hope that keeps us fighting & gives us Courage for the Storm. May we share it with our fellow Image-Bearers.
I left the used bookstore with 5 lil treasures for just $38.
& I left with Hope, a treasure which no one is too poor to buy ’cause the Son of God has already bought it for His people 🖤
death to the Shadow
courage, always courage
we have not lived in vain
I nearly lost my life climbing 1 of those ladders to reach a top shelf but it was worth it 😍
my 5 used bookstore finds 🖤