I got to design my own office when we built our church four years ago. It’s a 10′ by 10′ room with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves all around, a large window and a recessed area for a computer. In the middle is a round, wooden table that seats four. It’s a tight fit, but it works.
When I moved in, I joyfully sorted my beloved books by subject. Hebrew, Old Testament, Greek, New Testament, Church History, Pastoral Care, etc. I ran my fingers over their spines and was happy. It was a little tiny library, all my own.
One day a child fashioned a clay heart with her fingers and poked a smiley face into it with the stick from her sucker. She gave it to me as a present after church. I put it on the bookshelves, right next to R. K. Harrison’s “Introduction to the Old Testament.” I looked at it, smiled, then turned out the lights and went home. It was such an innocent thing for me to do; I had no idea what was going to happen.
That night the clay heart cried out. The call was heard all over the wilderness, and little friends began their journeys to find me in my bookish isolation.
I was born again, and my office was the birthing room.
Now giggling trinkets and silly mementos are sneaking into my office every night. Little elves, sprites, and brownies are pushing the books around when I’m not watching. A G.I. Joe in a spacesuit is standing on Oscar Cullmann’s “Peter”, throwing his shoulder into “Twelve Who Followed.” I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true. Another one is sitting on a can of Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls, straining his back against “The Gospel of Luke.”
A Chinese hacky sack, an assortment of fossils, and a can of Monty Python Chocolate Dead Parrots have completely covered William Barclay’s New Testament Commentaries. A totem’s wingspan covers books by Lightfood and Moffatt. My International Critical Commentaries are practically invisible behind a framed picture of the 1937 class of Dr. Salsbury’s School of Poultry Diseases, with me “photoshoped” into the lineup. Larry-Boy and Bob-the-Tomato are crowding “The Wounded Healer,” while Tigger sits in a communion chalice, kicking “The Book of Common Prayer”. Meanwhile, Homer Simpson, resplendent in a grass skirt, shares intimate space with Reinhold Niebuhr’s “Moral Man and Immoral Society.” Push the button on Homer’s foot and he sings “Tiny Bubbles.”
This is the truth. One morning I found that Fred Craddock’s “Luke” from the Interpretation series had been pushed off the shelves and was lying on the floor. I thought it was one of the kids, but now I’m not so sure.
After four years, my shelves are a mess of gewgaws, baubles, trifles, and whatnots. Children run in and out, leaving crayons and strewn paper. My Iron Giant action figure is looking worn and weary. Other than the items I’ve already mentioned, my books now share space with:
A cross made from two twigs tied together with yarn.
A little wooden candle I carved when I was in that stage.
A tiny bluebonnet, now dried, given by a child who handed it to me without a word and ran away.
A raccoon beanie baby.
A weird-looking rock I picked up in the brush country.
Several Peanuts paperbacks.
A wooden box full of candy that only the three sisters know about.
A wooden cylinder from Bulgaria, painted and containing a vial of rose oil.
Numerous empty Altoids tins.
A ceramic insulator from an old telephone pole I found on the church property. For reasons that will never be known to me, it had a marble stuck in it.
A “Lord’s Supper” pen. The host slides up and down the table when you tilt it.
The catcher’s mitt my dad gave me when I was sixteen.
An anonymous note from someone that says, “Do not fear, only believe.”
The “Laughing Lion” card from a 1950s era Old Maid deck. It fell out of an old theology book one day.
A stained-glass cross with half a cat’s eye marble at the center.
The complete “Halo and Sprocket” comic book series.
A bag of Origami stars.
Week by week, month by month, their numbers grow. Slowly my books are giving way to this strange collection. They are all precious to me, each a reminder of some crazy moment when God’s fingers poked through the plenum and stirred things up, leaving me swirling in a blessed eddy, disheveled and laughing.
My office was a library, but it’s becoming a playhouse. Kids used to peek inside; now they sneak in to play. Last Saturday night I found a little boy under my table eating M&Ms. He was clearly eyeing my Iron Giant Action Figure.
“Go ahead, you can play with it,” I said.
He grabbed it and ran down the hall. I stepped to the door to watch him go and felt an M&M crunch under my shoe.
I’m telling you, things are getting out of hand. Or maybe I’m discovering that things were never in my hands.
So anyway, I was thinking I might box up some of my books and store them in the attic. Shelf space is becoming scarce these days, and I really can’t afford to waste it on things that don’t matter.