For a couple of years now, I’ve played a “book bingo” with some Facebook friends. We’re all book geeks, and quite often our conversations mention a book – what we’ve liked, what we’ve disliked, etc. So it seemed a natural fit for us to follow one of these ‘bingo’ games and challenge ourselves. The challenge, of course, comes from what types of books we’re meant to read. A book with over 500 pages, a book of poetry, a book of non-fiction, a book by a Canadian author, a book published this year – you get the idea. Some are easy (a book with a blue cover), some are more challenging (a book with a one-word title).
This weekend I finished another book, another square on my bingo card: “A book your friend loves.” So I asked a friend for such a book – and got to challenge myself by reading that book. It wasn’t a genre I normally dive into, it wasn’t an author I’d read before. It was an okay book, but it didn’t make it to my favourites list. Still, it brought me out of my comfort zone.
That’s the whole point of this bingo challenge. The categories or squares cover all manner of things, and sometimes these fit within our comfort zone (a book from the bottom of the “to be read” pile), sometimes they don’t (a book that scares you). There is no winner or loser, no time competition, no prize at the end. Rather, the purpose becomes stretching our literary muscles a bit, being willing to try something new, allowing an opportunity and forum to share and think about our reading preferences. Will it change anything? Maybe; maybe not. But the possibility is there.
I’ve seen other such ‘challenges’ – event ice-breakers (meet someone from BC/with blonde hair/who’s traveled to Canterbury); music selections (listen to a song that’s country/jazz/from the 50s/from an opera); cooking (cook a meal with a new spice/only local foods/vegan); crafting (scrapbook 10 pages/knit a scarf/use glitter). The gist is the same: try something new, try different ways of expression. The challenges are broad enough to allow some flexibility; they don’t require specific book titles/songs/spices/crafts. I think this allows more engagement, by allowing the individual to personalize their challenge. It helps people get out of a rut, expand their horizons. And – it’s fun.
This got me thinking about our spiritual lives. Imagine if we were to try new things in out faith nurture the same way we’re willing to try new things in a bingo. The purpose would be the same – broaden our horizons, learn a new way of praying, trying something new. There’s no winners or losers, but an invitation to consider different ways of spiritual expression. Imagine the possibilities, the squares: Write your own creed to confess your faith; Pray the Anglican rosary; Learn a seasonal prayer form a different faith; Practice prayer in movement; Follow a Prayer Cycle; Read a new devotional; Discuss your favourite Biblical character with a friend. The list could go on. Some ideas we may like, some we may dislike; but maybe trying out new things spiritually can open our eyes to a new way to connect to God and the world.
We’ll still always return to our comfort zone – I’ll always have a mystery on the bookshelf, turmeric in the spice cupboard and my Celtic Daily office in my prayer corner. But maybe someday they’ll be joined by something else that enriches my life, that I wouldn’t have known about if I hadn’t challenged myself.