I have too many books. That is the opinion of some people and even people who are close to me and love me. My family recently bought me a t-shirt with the following testimony: “I rescue books trapped in the bookstore. I’m not a hoarder, I’m a hero!”
I take historical encouragement from the many people who have faced the accusation of having too many books, including presidents. Maybe that is one reason presidents get libraries!
Some people view books as tools and others view them as friends. I am definitely in the latter category. When traveling, I usually pick a book to read that provides context and helps transport me to that location. Such books would be The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough or for a January trip to Indonesia I read This Earth of Mankind by Pramoedya Ananta Toer.
I recently had to move some of my books and a colleague said that it is sometimes good to go through your books to refresh knowing what you already have. I agree.
As I moved books, I was able to recall some of the circumstances by which I obtained that particular friend or I could again recall the lesson that the friend provided to me.
God has used these friends in my life ever since my first visit to a church library. The friendships grew as my mom brought me to the the public library every Saturday and I started reading The Happy Hollisters, The Sugar Creek Gang, and Trixie Belden. Eventually, I began developing a bookshelf of my own.
As I rearranged a shelf of books, I thought about how you can organize by alphabet or in other ways. I have Dietrich Bonhoeffer near Tim Keller, I have Richard Mouw near N.T. Wright, and such pairings continue. These arrangements remind me that these neighbors function best when they are in conversation with each other rather than isolated and separate.
As we face certain issues in the church and in the world, I have a concern. I see a tendency to isolate, separate, and even a refusal to be in dialogue with others who are different or hold differing perspectives.
This separation makes it easy to judge the character of others and is the opposite of a spirit of curiosity and humility. We need each other.
I am hopeful that we may see the value of being “neighbors” in dialogue with the goal of finding levels of understanding and insight that we did not think we could share as we began this journey of exploring and discovery.
There is an impulse that comes from the heart of pride that we do not need each other and that it is better to live in our own world.
Instead, may we rearrange our bookshelves and our connections in an ongoing effort to be witnesses of grace and truth.
In that way, we are following the encouragement of the Apostle Paul who implored the Church in Galatians 6:9 – “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Let us not give up being neighborly!
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