“It’s pointless to have nice clean desk, because it means you’re not doing anything.” (Michio Kaku)
I like these quotes because my desk is cluttered. It has always been this way. My mom tried to get me to be better organized but my mind doesn’t work like that. It really isn’t clutter. It is a highly individualized and complex idea-organization-system. I know where everything is and why it is there. I’m the only one who understands it.
Here is a quick tour around my desk. Right in front of me, obviously, is my computer. Flanking it on one side is my water bottle and on the other, my coffee. Closest to me on my left is my copy of Erickson’s “Christian Theology.” It is open to page 412 - “God’s Continuing Work: Providence.” On top of that is my phone. Sticking out from under the book is the rough outline of my next sermon series.
To the far left is a pile/stack of paper relative to the ongoing incorporation process.
Behind the computer is my dictionary. Yes, I still use a hard copy dictionary. On the wall is a sticky note with names of people for whom I’m praying.
To my right is one of my Bibles. It is open to the book of Hebrews. There is a stack of sticky-notes, scrap paper notes, pens, and highlighters all around it (I’m right-handed, so all that stuff accumulates over there). On the far-right corner of the desk sits a phone. It hardly gets used. My cell does all that work.
Right beside my coffee are perhaps the two most important things in my office: hand sanitizer, and a Bible text I printed a couple of years ago. It helps keep me rooted:
by instructing and teaching all people
with all wisdom
so that we may present every person
mature in Christ.
Toward this goal I also labour,
struggling according to His power
that powerfully works in me.
Every time I look at it, this text reminds me of the task, why I do it, how I do it, why some days are hard, and most importantly, that God is greater.
But it isn’t just a task to be completed so “they” mature in Christ. Paul says he, too, participates in this maturity process. Even for him it was a struggle - but God’s power works powerfully in him. And in us - all of us. Thankfully, that includes me.
It is encouraging to know that Paul shared in the lofty goal of being mature in Christ. He wasn’t an “elite” looking down on the “lessers” who struggled. They walked the journey together.
Paul loved the “struggle” metaphor. He spoke of the effort to fight the good fight (1 Tim. 6:12, 2 Tim. 4:7) and of the personal discipline of an athlete (1 Tim. 4:10, 1 Cor. 9:25) as examples of how demanding the challenge before us is as we seek to mature in our faith and represent Christ well. The reality is that following Christ demands intentionality. Following Jesus is not a one-and-done decision. Commitment to athletic accomplishment requires daily engagement. Following Jesus is the same.
The struggle is real.
For each of us this struggle will highly personalized - just like the state of our desks or nightstands or glovebox of the car. In our daily journey there will be those times when all we can do is plod. Forget about soaring with the eagles or standing on the mountaintop. Just getting on our feet may take all the courage and energy we have. That doesn’t mean we are immature or ungodly. It means we are humans who, every day, must choose to follow after Jesus - and we acknowledge our dependence on His strength to make that happen. And Paul acknowledges there are times when choosing to do so is very, very hard.
There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to maturing in faith. Neither is it a solo journey. At the end of Colossians Paul acknowledges nine people by name, and “the brethren who are in Laodecia and also Nympha and the church that is in her house” (4:15). This early church shared their journey together. None of us can do it alone.
I doubt too many people (other than maybe my mom) are concerned about the state of confusion on my desk. I do hope there are a lot of people concerned about the state of order or confusion in my heart and mind. A cluttered desk is no big deal. A cluttered heart and mind is.
The struggle is real. But so are the friendships and encouragement we share with one another. We are in this maturing process together!