What I’ve learned from books, lately

photo 2 (48)A few days ago over lunch a friend said: “I imagine it’s pretty hard getting ready to leave your parish. All kinds of things must be coming up for you.”

I’m moving out of my office. Slowly, surely, I’m leaving a job where I’ve been for the past five plus years, a job where I’ve worked harder and had more fun than I ever thought possible at church. It’s a hard place to leave, in spite of knowing that it’s time. Yes, many things are coming up for me. But instead of telling him about all those things, I just talked about my books.

As a woman of the cloth, I have a lot of books. Books acquired before, during, and since seminary, book-group books, gift books, someday-when-I-have-more-time books. Most people in my position go through life moving their books from one office to the next until they retire and have a huge book sale, or give the books away, or box them up for their heirs to deal with. But I’m neither going to another office nor retiring. When contemplating this move I realized I wasn’t ready to put the books in boxes or give them away, and instead hired a talented young man to build some gorgeous shelves in my study at home.

photo 1 (49)Over the past six weeks or so, since the time the shelves were completed, I’ve taken a box home from the office every few days. I’ve tried to cull through them and give some away, but that has not been easy. I’ve been able to part with maybe fifty books out of I-don’t-know-how-many hundreds. I’ve been meticulous about organizing them: scripture commentary on the shelves by the desk, theology and ethics on the shelves by the armchair. Church music and worship next to the desk, my father’s amazing photo album collection and books for daily prayers next to the armchair. Dictionaries (including Latin and Greek dictionaries which I haven’t opened for decades) are next to the desk; poetry is next to the armchair. Church history didn’t fit; it’s spread out over two shelves in the guest room. Church growth and development sprinkled across both study shelves. You get the idea.

It’s been great to take the books from office to home one box at a time, rather than dreading a big overwhelming moving day. I want my final goodbyes to be separate from packing and moving and sorting. Ditto with my first week at home without a sermon to write or parish meetings to attend.

What I’ve learned from my books is that I that I have a whole lot more commentaries on scripture than I ever knew, and that each one is a particular treasure. I’ve learned that somewhere along the way I picked up a dozen different books on Saint Paul and have yet to read them. And that in me is the intent to read them. I’ve learned that there’s a lot of great stuff out there on Christian ethics and that much of it is on my shelves. I’ve learned that I’m not done with study or preaching or diving deep into worship.

On Saturday I brought home the last box of books. Shockingly, they just fit. Because the books seem to have become a metaphor for what I’m affectionately calling My Big Transition to God Knows What, the fact that they all fit bodes well for whatever comes next. And whatever it is, I’m pretty sure I’ve got a book to go with it.