Junk Drawer Theology

Packing sucks.  My wife and I are moving to Wisconsin and we could not be happier.  It is a fantastic opportunity to be in ministry in a new place with a great group of people.  We really want to be in Wisconsin, but getting there is a pain in the neck and points south.  How in the world have we accumulated so much stuff?  Where did all this junk come from?  I am absolutely amazed at the amount of detritus I held onto!

And yet, each drawer is a glimpse into the “real me.”  I find that I have mashed together a diverse and eclectic collection of stuff over the years.  Some of it is pure trash — old receipts, ticket stubs, junk mail, etc.  Some are those “useful” things that I plan on using again sometime — pens, cables, keys and the like.  The sometimes useful also is represented — flashlights, screwdrivers, paper clips.  But then it gets more interesting.  Keepsakes — anniversary gifts and birthday cards and childhood mementos.  Pieces of my son’s life — old report cards, pictures, gifts.  Reminders of my ministry — letters, awards, and bulletins.  My life — the title to my car (why is this here?), family photos, my mom’s obituary, a copy of the first book I wrote.  I keep plowing through these hodge-podge mini-documentaries of my life, and I am overwhelmed.  I keep wanting to just open a drawer and dump its contents into a trashbag, but I can’t.  I have to sort through each one, piece by piece.

In a very weird way, it reminds me of my faith.  I like to think that I follow a fairly reasonable and systematic theology.  Yet, when I open up the “drawers” of my own personal belief system, I find that it resembles, in very distinct terms, my junk drawers.  Hidden in the miasmic cascade of “stuff” there are treasures, but there is a significant amount of junk as well.

At the core, I have some fairly simple, but foundational beliefs.  God is.  Jesus the Christ is the Son of God.  The essence and Spirit of God is present and ubiquitous, guiding and energizing the church in the world.  The church is the incarnate body of Christ for the world.  All are created in the image and essence of God, and the purpose of life is to build up, affirm, love, and celebrate the creation of God.  To extend mercy, justice, compassion, kindness, and grace into all relationships is the highest calling.  These things I treasure.

I wish I could say that these things fill my faith drawer, but I find other things as well.  I am impatient with people who sew discord.  I get annoyed with people who divide and degrade.  I am liberal and I struggle with those who aren’t.  I’m a mystic, and I get nervous with worship that is too busy and Bible studies that aren’t rigorous.  I’m a worship snob — I want worship that is clearly focused on God and that doesn’t slide over to performance or self-help.  I believe in prayer that includes meditation — where silence is as important what we have to say to God.  I sometimes forget that these are personal preferences and orientations and that they don’t (and shouldn’t) apply to everyone.

Then there is all the “waste” that simply takes up space.  I go off on tangents.  I get bogged down in “information” — loving to dwell on abstractions and concepts and current debates.  I get sidetracked by senseless arguments over “right” belief and practice.  I get passionate about stupid disagreements.  I compromise my belief in kindness and inclusiveness when someone challenges me.  I seemingly lose not only my mind, but my heart and faith.  There some really embarrassing stuff in my “faith drawer.”

I am glad that I have been required by life circumstances to clean out my physical junk drawers, and it challenges me to take some time to clean out my junk drawers of faith — to clarify what is important to keep, what needs to be sorted and filed, and what needs to be thrown away.  I really don’t have time to waste on the unimportant and trivial.  I need to stay focused on what is truly important, valuable, and worthwhile.

Of all the things I came across in this current move, nothing means more to me than a simple crayon-designed piece of construction paper from my son Josh that says, simply, “I love you, Dad.”  When all is said and done, I guess what matters most in my faith possessions is essentially the same.  The simple, but powerful message from God that says, “I love you, Child… Now, go and do the same with others.”

Categories: Personal Reflection

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