(Estimated reading time: 4 minutes)
As I write, I am sitting in my study, facing my desk. In the middle of the desk is a monitor stand, built from shelving we had in our old house. I used the stand for my old CRT and LCD monitors, but it is not high enough for my laptop with its remote keyboard. So, I have three reams of paper on top of the monitor stand, and on top of them rests my computer.
There are 28 books lying on my desk. They rise and fall like foothills beneath the mountain of my monitor stand, with its reams of copy paper. On the corner of the desk, a tray for correspondence has overflowed in an avalanche of envelopes and notepads, and cascades down to the desktop.
This is how my study always looks between cleanings. In home décor parlance, I believe the look is known as “Early Disheveled.” Contrary to rumor, no children or pets have ever been lost in my study—but that’s not to say that there haven’t been some close calls.
I put off cleaning my study for a reason. I do not know what to do with all the stuff. Things that might be important go in the tray while I wait for more information, or formulate a response, or weigh a decision. They sometimes stay there for a long time.
My wife tells me that I ought to file such things, but I know myself. The file cabinet is a burial ground and file folders are graves. Once a paper goes in there, it will, apart from a miracle, never see daylight again.
I am going to clean my study someday soon. Despite appearances, I like things to be well-ordered. I will begin by moving the mountain of books back to their appropriate shelves in my study, office, and basement. Next, I will sort through the papers, keeping the relevant ones and disposing of the rest. Then, after a quick dusting, all will once again be right with the world.
But I foresee a problem. Experience has taught me that I go a little mad once I start cleaning. I know what to do with the books, most of which are already catalogued and have their particular places. But the papers are another matter.
As I begin to sort through the papers, I find many that are no longer relevant: deadlines are past, invitations are dated, decisions have already been made. But there are still some that I do not know what to do with. That is a problem. I want an empty paper tray.
That’s when I get a little crazy. After a few minutes, I begin tossing things, left and right. When I start a project, I want to finish it, and those papers are an obstacle to the completion of my goal.
In my quarterly frenzy to declutter (my wife would say it is more like a semi-annual frenzy), I have tossed things I wish I had kept. My determination to finish the task makes me act impulsively. I find myself throwing everything away.
What set me thinking about my rash disposal of things was a line in the biblical Book of Hebrews. The author admonishes his readers: “Do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.”
In our day, when so many people are “deconstructing” their faith, this warning to the Hebrews seems very contemporary. If faith can be deconstructed, it should be, and the clutter – the pietistic flotsam and jetsam carried on the tide of faith – thrown out. But the rash way in which some people are going about it almost guarantees that beliefs that warrant keeping will be discarded.
Many people, upset with the ecclesial debris that has accrued around their faith, have impulsively thrown faith itself away. When their confidence in Christ goes, their relationship to his church goes with it. Hence, Joel Belz, founder and CEO of World Magazine, is warning Christian leaders to get ready for an avalanche of church closings.
Those who throw away their confidence in Christ will find that they have discarded something precious. I hope it is not too late for them to recover it.
The example of frenzied cleaning and throwing away things that actually needed to be kept was a perfect parallel to the rash deconstruction that I’m seeing all around me. I’m thankful I had your pastoral leadership growing up, I find I go back to some of the things you’ve taught in my adolescence that hold so much truth. I am grateful you continue this blog. Your steady wisdom is needed in a culture that relies so much on flippant information.
Hi Chelsea! This might be the kindest comment ever on my blog! Thank you for the encouragement. My best – rather, the Lord’s best – to you, Trevor, and the kids!