As you’ve likely noticed, the church office area and several classrooms have beautiful new flooring. It’s really nice and thanks must go out to our deacons who orchestrated the deal. In order for the flooring to be installed in my office they had to remove all the furniture … ALL the furniture, including bookcases full of books. So, it was up to me to pack them up in boxes and try to keep them organized as best I could.
As I started this task I noticed that there were many, many books that were absolutely useless; books I hadn’t looked at in 20 years; books I would have no intention of looking at in the next 20 years. So the dumpster behind the church became my friend for several hours one day as I threw away between 100-200 books. I know what you’re thinking … “Burt, why didn’t you give them to someone, or allow folks to look through them, or donate them to a thrift store?” Because these were the books that not only I didn’t want, I didn’t want anyone to have to weed through the mess of interpretation, controversy, or confusion that most of them would involve. But fear not, as I’m going through the boxes and selectively unpacking them, I’m now setting aside probably another 100-200 books that I will make available to others.
It’s not that I don’t value books anymore, rather I just don’t value the appearance of having so many books. I suspect most all of us want to be thought of as smart, wise, knowledgeable, and well-prepared for whatever we do. I certainly enjoyed it as people would come into my office, see the enormous accumulation of books, and make positive comments and expressions. But I’m admitting that many of those books were nothing more than decorations on the shelves to give the appearance of a well-read, thoughtful, knowledgeable, theologically astute, wise pastor. Of course, those of you who know me well know none of that is true, but it was fun to play the game!
If I’m honest, there are several areas in my life where the appearance is somewhat deceptive. I’ve always been told what a great faith I have … maybe, but I wrestle with fear all the time. I’ve been told what a wonderful marriage and family they see in the Boykin home … I guess we’re okay, and though my wife is absolutely wonderful, marriage is hard; and while I think all my boys are incredible, it’s not because they have such a good dad. I’ve been told I’ve modeled the Christian life well … hmmm, if you only knew the secret sins tucked away down in the hidden places in my heart. This list could go on and on and on.
A couple of points I need to make. Though appearances are deceptive, the Lord knows the real me in absolute detail and HE LOVES ME ANYWAY. This Gospel truth is what keeps me going in the face of sometimes feeling like a fraud. Second truth, I don’t think I’m the only one who realizes this about themselves. We all wrestle with this feeling. The church must be a place where it’s safe to be exposed, where our identity isn’t in appearance but rather in who we are in Christ, where forgiveness and grace characterizes everything we do, every relationship, every conversation, and every activity.
By the way, I have some books you’re welcome to come pick through!