Throwing Out Books
In the last few weeks I’ve done a lot of cleaning and throwing away in my Hope Church office. I’ve been going through stuff I’ve accumulated, not just for 10 years here at Hope, but for 31 years of ministry! I found the worship bulletin from the first funeral I ever led (two weeks after I started an internship during seminary!), file after file of classes I taught, and letters from people I remember but who are now gone. I’ve been reminded of so many opportunities to preach, teach, counsel and be with people in the most intense moments of life. I have been humbled and filled with thanks.
It’s not that hard for me to throw away paper in files. In fact, I’ve filled up several of the recycling bins around the church! I can hold on to the memories of the people and the events without holding on to yellowing papers.
But it’s much harder for me to throw out books!
I grew up in a house filled with books. In fact my dad could literally fill a room with books (literally…). Books are like friends to me. I pick up a text I had in seminary – there’s my address from Princeton written in the front cover. I look inside another – there are notes I made at a turning point in my life. Another book was a special gift. How can I give this book away or sell it?!
But, like those yellowed papers, the books are valuable mainly for parts of my life they represent – classes attended, churches served, friends made — various ways God used ideas and people to heal me and change me. I’m still holding on to some of those books. But many more I give away, hoping others will find the ideas inside intersect powerfully with someone or something God is using to change their lives.
I leave Hope with fewer papers and books than I came with. But I am much richer in friendships and shared experiences. God’s best ideas become living reality through our relationships. God’s Holy Spirit takes words from pages and makes them alive as we teach, learn, forgive, and share life.
As Paul wrote in his first letter to the Thessalonians: “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.” (1.8) Papers, books, letters, classes all pass away – but the friendships we make in Jesus are forever. Thank you all for the privilege that Dan and I have had to share our lives and the gospel with you these past 10 years.
Judie Ritchie, Associate Pastor of Congregational Care and Inviting & Connecting Ministries