When you come, don’t forget to bring my books

By Curtis K. Shelburne: Religion columnist

Preachers love books. Of course, they love THE Book most of all, but the default mode for most of them is to be drawn to almost anything that has a binding on it.

A friend and pastoral colleague who moderates an e-mail discussion group I enjoy also runs a publishing company. He recently offered to help anyone on the e-list—mostly preachers — sell any old books they’d like to get off their shelves.

It was nice of him to offer. It makes sense to clean off some shelves. Several years ago, we did a major renovation at the church, including my study, and another friend who is good at decorating and re-decorating encouraged me to down-size my “in the study” library. She said that having wall-to-wall books on every wall was emotionally and decoratively depressing, stifling, and “heavy.”

She had a point. Shortly after my family and I moved here 23 years ago, I installed some cheap shelving on the walls in the study and loaded them with books. One morning a few days later I opened the door to find that during the night a book avalanche had snowballed down from the wall and almost destroyed the desk. A studying pastor sitting there could have been killed. Even if he’d survived the initial bookalanche, it would have taken days to get him unburied. Relieved not to have been martyred by my weighty tomes so early in my Muleshoe pastorate, I took the logical remedial action. Cut my library in half? No, I doubled the shelf supports.

Wall to wall books, depressing? I’d thought they were comforting. But, while the renovation meant much nicer shelves, it also meant fewer shelves. Half the library had to be stored elsewhere, and my friend was right. Fewer volumes in the study means that the ones making the cut are weightier in the best sense.

Come to think of it, I actually did cull out a few volumes, such as the massive science reference book my parents got conned into buying when I was in junior high. New elements have likely been discovered since then. And the book by the guy getting rich selling his theory that the president of the Soviet Union was the Antichrist and, at no extra charge, predicting the date for the end of the world. He’s still writing, so I guess it wasn’t that bad for sales that the Soviet Union collapsed and the world forgot to end on the date specified.

Not all books are created equal. Not even close.

But I understand the Apostle Paul whose request from prison to his younger colleague was, “Oh, when you come, don’t forget to bring my books.”

The words of the best ones open our eyes to new vistas. And all genuine truth, beauty, and joy come ultimately from the Author of life.