Cleaning out my personal space

I do the quieter part of my work out of a small basement office stuffed with books and papers. It is my hideaway, the place where I think and read, write and engage God. What happens, however, is that this little office tends to collect a lot of stuff – books and papers pile up. On a regular basis, then, I have to clean out the accumulating clutter of my thinking and reading life. And when I do this, I am reminded that this exercise is a powerful metaphor for life itself. For years now, I have realized that managing a library of books, papers, and other assorted items, requires a certain kind of courage. One can’t be too attached; sentimentality is not always helpful. The truth is that in order to make room for the future I have to choose what I want to keep and what I need to throw away. Another recent foray into all my stuff was illuminating to me on several fronts. Let me share with you what I found out.

I found out just how much we do change through time. I found out that some of what I valued in the past just isn’t that important to me anymore. And some of what I previously took for granted is now most precious, most definitive. Through all of this change, I have become convinced that truth requires the long view.

I found out just how dated and faddish parts of my collection can be. For instance, in one recent sweep I got rid of all those statistics I had collected on the up-and-coming baby boomers. I was one of those up-and-comers but, my, how the time flies. Anyway, our penchant for naming the generations was well documented in my old files and I have grown tired of it. I have thrown out almost everything that names people by category. And I have little tolerance for fads.

I found out just how much I value writers and leaders who prove to be faithful over time. Somehow, it matters to me not just what people have said, but how they have lived. I have grown to love good biography.

I found out that, after multiple sweeps of my books and files through the years, the items I have kept are getting more valuable to me through time, especially since they have stuck with me now for decades in some cases. A decade is a fairly good test of what is important, though I suspect that it still isn’t long enough.

Whenever I do this, whenever I feel the need to sort through my stuff, I end up carrying out a few bags of paper and a few boxes of books. The process is not always easy – I do wrestle with my choices – but I must say that I am always happy to make room in my life. I certainly can move around a bit better. I have room for new thoughts, new pieces to add to my life. I am never sorry for it.

I wonder how much my little story reminds you of repentance. See you this Sunday at 9:29 or 11:11 am.

Bob Osborne

For further reflection:

  1. What does my regular exercise mean to you? Do you have a similar exercise?
  2. Last Sunday we talked about repentance in the context of our story at Westside King’s Church. I invite you to listen again to the podcast. How did you hear what was said?
  3. Take a read through Philippians 3. How might this text address the ideas of “life sorting”, maturity and change?