Cleaning the Dungeon

I spent some time the last couple of weeks trying to clean my basement office/store room.  It is the repository of all things no longer in use, and over time gets pretty cluttered.

Because I only keep a small bookcase in our living area, one of the things that grows, almost like fungi, are stacks and stacks of books.

Many of the books were just in boxes, so I cleared off some shelving and unpacked some of my most-loved books.  However, there are piles of books that I will probably give away or throw away.

It is kind of interesting because each category of books represents a stage of my faith journey, and the decision about which books to get rid of symbolizes what I am holding onto and what I am letting go of.

Earlier, I mentioned the strategic intercession section of my library.  I pulled those yesterday and paged through them, wondering if I would ever need them, or if I was throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.

As I paged through them, I realized that they represent a stage of our corporate journey as the body, an unawareness that our lives should impact the area where we live.  However, they fell short of understanding the missional revelation that the body is now awakening to.

It was interesting to see that with all of the talk about strategies, mapping, conquering, and winning our cities for God, there was very little mention of actual people and relationships.  The city was a project, and everything was very detached from involvement in the lives of real, ordinary people.

Next there were skads of how-to-be-a-good-christian books.  Everything that reeked of performance and obligation went into the garbage.  Others were more neutral, just basic life principle sort of stuff.  I wondered whether I should save them for some reason.  At some point, I concluded that almost all of them could be reduced to “love God, love others.”

I think the abundance of self-help teaching is one reason we haven’t seen spiritual formation occur the way that it should in the church.  On one hand, we have Bible study, which is often about knowledge and doctrine, and on the other hand we have pop psychology.  Neither have addressed the formative practices needed for spiritual formation of the heart, not just the mind.

Anyway, as I continue to sort through the piles of unnecessary teaching in my mind, the storeroom becomes a little less cluttered.

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16 thoughts on “Cleaning the Dungeon

  1. I went through a similar process when we put our house on the market a number of weeks back. Letting go. Trusting that appropriate tools will be in the toolbox when needed. Trading in a library of references for walking in step with the Spirit and showing up in people’s lives.

  2. Grace,

    You said:

    “I think the abundance of self-help teaching is one reason we haven’t seen spiritual formation occur the way that it should in the church. On one hand, we have Bible study, which is often about knowledge and doctrine, and on the other hand we have pop psychology. Neither have addressed the formative practices needed for spiritual formation of the heart, not just the mind.”

    We aren’t making disciples are we? We aren’t following Jesus together, are we? Instead, we are seeking to be better people by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. Great comment.

    I need to cull my bookcase as well…

    Eric

  3. “… very little mention of actual people and relationships.” now there’s an excellent “barometer issue” for figuring out if a movement is missing the critical DNA for true impact or not. thanks for posting this grace. you always have important things to say …

  4. I can so relate, Grace. In the past few years I have thrown out or given away well over 500 books, including one I wrote on prayer–how funny is that?! It’s wonderful the way Father grows us up and changes us. I still have waaayyyy too many books, but at least all the legalistic and “how-to” ones are gone.

  5. I have mentioned that I can’t even keep my old books next to some newer ones for fear they will throw each other off the shelves. :)

    Can I submit one for you to add? I have just been reading through God’s Honest Truth (Not really fond of the title) by Darin Hufford and it has blown me away. Would love for you to read it and give it a review. It takes 1 Cor 13 and applies it to God and his nature and shows us how we have mis-read the Father’s heart in all of the attributes of love. I am amazed that I have take my own selfish perspectives on each facet and thought God was like me.

  6. Fabulous post, Grace–goes nicely with Jonathan’s post today at Missio Dei.

    I was struck by a number of your comments:

    “…decision about which books to get rid of symbolizes what I am holding onto and what I am letting go of.”

    I am holding on to a number of the books I have from my father’s “pastoral library” when he retired from teaching at the university. So many of them are representatives of a paragidm I have left behind…and Lord knows I have WAY TOO MANY books…I might just have to donate them to the library! Thanks for the encouragement

    “…with all of the talk about strategies, mapping, conquering, and winning our cities for God, there was very little mention of actual people and relationships.”

    Bingo…and when we view Kingdom work in any other light than relational, we go down the path that leads to the Dark Side….

    “…almost all of them could be reduced to “love God, love others.””

    This is my whole deal (along with Scot McKnight, of course 8) ) and the reason that I believe cHesed is so foundational as primary context.

    “…Neither have addressed the formative practices needed for spiritual formation of the heart, not just the mind.”

    I have totally embraced Neil Cole’s LTG concept (as described in his little book: “Cultivating a Life for God”. Cole says, and I wholeheartedly agree: “Do not educate beyond obedience.” BINGO!

    …well, the Abbess clearly resonated with this post, sister! I will think of you when the day comes that I am able to cull my bookshelves ;)

  7. Been doing the same thing lately. All these books came with a lot of promises, and ended up doing very little to my spirituality while enriching some people in the process.

    My books are heavy on the performance end of the spectrum (Pursuit of Holiness, Practice of Godliness, etc.).

    I should store them away in boxes labeled “Two decades on the road to nowhere”

  8. Not to sound too practical or anything, but I’d happily take whatever you are discarding! They’d go to the “help support a church planter” fund/cause :) I’d even drive for ’em!

  9. “On one hand, we have Bible study, which is often about knowledge and doctrine, and on the other hand we have pop psychology. Neither have addressed the formative practices needed for spiritual formation of the heart, not just the mind.”
    — That’s a great insight. Too often we look to a book (or hand someone else a book) to teach us how to change our hearts. That usually happens only through real life interaction with real people, not our own (or someone else’s) project.

    BTW, you’re invited anytime to help me sort through the remainder of my library. I gave/threw away boxes and boxes before we moved last year, then put most of the rest in storage. I’m hoping some of those will identify themselves as no longer necessary when I start unpacking!

  10. yeah I’ve been thinking of getting rid off,The Late, Great Planet Earth, for some time – this I will do today!!!

    You certainly can discover a lot about one’s walk by their bookshelves. You can discover where they have been by going through the packing crates out in the shed.

  11. Heidi Baker, a church planter in Mozambique was preaching in my area once. She was preaching that Jesus is the bread of Life. She said that when she comes to the western world, and goes into a grocery store, she is overwhelmed by how many choices of bread are on offer. In Mozambique, they just have one kind of bread. They bake it fresh every day. Fresh, warm bread is apealling to everyone – rich or poor – doesn’t matter. There’s nothing like the Bread of Life, eh? Sometimes you just gotta ditch the books and consume Him.

  12. wendy,
    You expressed that so beautifully. Perhaps it is time to let go of the reference material and listen more closely to the Teacher.

    eric,
    Maybe discipleship was never intended to be learned from a book or sermon?

    Thanks brad!

    tracy,
    I’ve heard many authors say they would love to recall some of their earlier books, one of the dangers of capturing our journey and print, yet a good reminder that our beliefs are a work in progress.

    LOL barb!
    I’ve added Darin’s blog to my reader. I’ll have to look into his books, not that I need more books. ;)

    peggy,
    Great point. I think that knowledge puffs up at exactly the moment where our learning surpasses our doing.

    david,
    I could certainly relate to what you said. So many of the books held empty promises and religious ideas, whereas as the scripture has always offered the simple truth in a way that gives life.

    More later.

  13. Bob,
    I wish I had a simple way to get them to you. I would feel better about getting rid of them if I knew they were going to a good purpose.

    maria,
    I think you are right that spiritual formation is a relational process, both vertically and horizontally. Moving is usually pretty good motivation to dispose of the non-essentials.

    jeff,
    It shouldn’t require a manual but is probably best taught by example.

    mark,
    LOL. Do you seriously still have a copy? It probably won’t be of much use in your current studies.

    sarah,
    Great metaphor, fresh Bread daily!

    cindy,
    There are layers. Every year a deeper cleaning and a further letting go.

    Plus, I’m now at the age where I repeat myself, repeatedly. Expect another installment of this topic next year. :)

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