Cleaning out spaces is liberating. Last year, like many who were quarantined at home, I decided to purge my 30 year seminary and ministry book collection. Six large rubbermaid containers full of theological influence. I confess that I regularly clean out other areas of my life. But this one mostly resided in my storage room. Out of sight, out of mind. But still taking up space.
So one day, I gathered the motivation to start. Truthfully, I was unaware in the beginning of the number of buckets of books I had accumulated. Sure, some of my theological books are used regularly as resources. But as I began going through each container, I learned more about my life in these past three decades than I anticipated. Some of those books featured theological streams I now disagree with.
Weeding through the books became not just a process of separation but one of reconciliation. What had shaped me in those years? How did I make my way to the place I am in today where my theology looks different but my understanding of the scriptural story and Jesus’s Kingdom is so much richer?
I pondered what to do with some of these books. Throwing out books feels like an anathema. Books are like friends to me. I cherish the physical texture and smell of them. They shape me in so many ways, inform me of the human story, and become balms to my soul. But I just didn’t feel right about passing on some of them. Because I think some of those were written under the guise of theology wrongly understood but published in the name of a buck and culture wars. And I believe the Christian community is in a place of realizing that scripture is best interpreted in community that allows for scholarship, honest conversation with the diverse breadth of creation, and holding the reality of mystery. Yet realizing that it is God’s sacred revelation to us.
I recognize that my theology is still forming. And that’s O.K. Going through those books helped me realize where I seek clarity. Melissa Florer-Bixler in Fire by Night, writes, “The work of interpretation is not for instruction alone; it is for creating a temple out of God’s people, a task that leads us toward love, ” pouring soul onto soul” (Aquinas). Going through those containers reoriented my spaces: physically and sacred.
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Stephanie, thank you for sharing this blessed post today. I appreciate your words and a lesson to be had. Blessings.
Andrew Budek-Schmeisser says
So WONDERFUL to see you here, Stephanie! You’ve been in our prayers.
For a long and dreary time
some books I could no longer read;
the words and heart-thoughts didn’t rhyme,
and I found I couldn’t heed
their messages of joy and hope
in the winter of my soul;
’twas bitterness that helped me cope
and cynicism kept me whole…
or so I thought, but one day tarried
with an old familiar friend,
found love dormant but not buried,
and found I wasn’t at an end,
but in these pages oh so winning,
found myself a new beginning.
Thanks Andrew! I am glad to be back writing and I always look forward to your creative responses.