"See, I am near, says the Lord; see, I make all things new..." --Taizé song
You know, cleaning out desks should come with a warning label: "Emptying contents may simultaneously cause laughter and tears."
Now that I have been a laptop user for about three years, I came to the realization that "the computer desk" is pretty much obsolete. There's probably a better use of space for this corner of my house. Oh, I still need a stand for the router and the printer, and maybe a little desk of some sort for dumping the bills, but really, two big desks are simply too much.
So, I decided to spend the bulk of my Saturday cleaning out both desks in preparation of getting rid of them.
That desk on the left has a story. My grandfather bought that at a "guv'mint auction" when I was 16 years old and I had just gotten my novice ham radio license. It was painted um...er...a..."lovely" shade of Army Mint Green--you know, the color most National Guard armory and VA hospital walls are...
He and I stripped it and refinished it. There's still some of the original green paint on the sides of the drawers. (Ok, we got a little lazy.) It has some seriously wonderful memories with it, but it's ergonomically awkward, and heavy as lead. The shelves are home made--I made them in my friend Bill B.'s garage, when I was a resident doc. Bill liked to do amateur woodwork, and I was his "shop class pupil" for the project.
The corner desk is one I bought in 2000, when I first moved back to Kirksville, and was the first true "computer friendly" desk I ever had. Nothing sentimental there--it was a Wal-Mart special.
I think the big shocker, as I started cleaning out the two desks, was that there was six boxes of crap I dumped out of those desks, and five boxes of stuff I kept! The old Army desk had things in it that literally, were put there 35 years ago. Things I can't believe I kept--old Valentine's Day cards from romances long kaput, funeral bulletins, owner's manuals from things I pitched 25 years ago. It took me several hours to go through all the drawers. I found myself literally bursting into tears one minute, and laughing the next. Within the drawers were love and grief, humor and sorrow, all mixed together and stacked upon each other like fossils within sedimentary rock. In an old cigar box were faces frozen in time--7th graders I taught in 1981 who are now 43 years old, now 30something year old cousins as babies, older folks close to me who have been residing at the cemetery for many years now.
Of course, there were also the long forgotten odd things that, as I found them, I wasted no time tossing in the dumpster, thinking, "Oh, God, I don't even want to think about what someone would think, finding this, if I dropped dead and they were cleaning out my estate." Some things in there were not exactly supportive of the legacy I'd like to leave!
Do I know what I plan to do with that corner? No, not really.
But I know I need to clear out what's there, before I can even begin to dream of the possibilities.
I wonder if my obsession with the "computer corner" is simply a physical sign of a spiritual state for me--or maybe it is another manifestation of how my life rhythms tend to mimic the liturgical calendar--we are speeding headfirst towards Lent, a time of reflection, repentance, and preparation for renewal--or maybe it is a little of both.
But I do know this much--before we can make all things new, we must first examine the old, and, much like how observant Jews clear the house of chomitz (leavened bread) just prior to Passover, we have to fearlessly examine every nook and cranny for the things that need to be tossed.
That's what I've always liked about the tradition of getting rid of the chomitz. The families I've known over the years that do that, get downright OCD about it. No doubt, they want to smack the family matriarch upside the head for her being so obsessive about it. But when it's done, it's satisfying.
Furthermore, getting rid of chomitz has a holiness to it. It's a good lesson for getting rid of our physical, spiritual and emotional chomitz. When we de-clutter our lives, we don't have to just "go on a tear" and start dumping stuff in haste. We can treat is like a holy moment. We can lovingly toss it in the dumpster with thanksgiving in our hearts and on our lips for those portions of our life story. We can be grateful that we are fortunate enough to own enough stuff to hoard.
But in short, we can simultaneously place these things on the altar while we're putting them in the dumpster. It's not an either/or proposition. These things we hoarded aren't necessarily "bad," they have simply served their time in faithful service.
I'm reminded of a story of a man who lived in the period of American westward expansion. He moved to the mountains, and had very few possessions in the beginning. He spent much of his time following trails and exploring, unencumbered by possessions other than what he needed to survive. But over the years, he accumulated a lot of "stuff."
When the time came for him to strike out and move, in search of more adventure, he had so many possessions he had to put them in a Conestoga wagon. The wagon could not traverse the mountains because of its size (particularly its width) and its weight. So he had to take a desert road. His beloved mountains merely became something in the distance that he could only look at, but not touch or feel or experience. The desert became his reality.
Yes, God can make all things new. But we might have to clear out the chomitz first.