Stories from a life in progress.

Harder choices

I've been working my way through my bookshelves, which is where I started reviewing my stuff, and I've got several growing piles of books and magazines to let go of. Most of the obvious choices have been pulled, and now I'm down to books which take more thinking about.

Some of the choices are harder than it looks on the surface. For example, one of the four books which started this process, The Lord of the Rings. I have no less than three copies of this book available. There's my original paperback trilogy, read many times in high school, college, and the years immediately following. There is the boxed hardback set with the lovely huge fold-out maps of Tolkien's Middle Earth, big enough to read details that escape me in the tiny paperback maps. And there's the Kindle version, the easiest to carry around with me now and the one I'm most likely to actually read these days.

Three versions is at least one too many, right? That's an easy way to get some bookshelf space back, give away duplicate books.

Heh. You'd think.

Which one do you suppose I should let go of? The Kindle version doesn't take any extra space, so clearly not that. The hardbacks have the good maps which I do use for reference, plus they're the nicer printed copies. The paperbacks are in decent shape, certainly good enough to pass along to someone else, but they were my FIRST copies of this story, they were like friends during some long years when I really needed friends, and I can't imagine giving them away. Someone asked to borrow these paperbacks once, just to read and give back, and I hemmed and hawed and never really answered, because the actual answer was NO you can't borrow my books, are you crazy? These are MY BOOKS and they're three of the most important things I own and I love them and you can't have them, not even for a second. MY books. MY PRECIOUS.


Is it wrong to hold on to things for sentimental reasons? I don't think so. The problem is figuring out where a healthy line is. One of the other four books, Jen Hatmaker's 7, talks a lot about the purpose of giving things up in the spirit of fasting -- to make room for God's Spirit to speak, and to relieve suffering and injustice around us. Another of the books, Teresa of Avila's autobiography, describes the saint's relief at finally living in absolute poverty when she founds her first reformed Carmelite house, how she owned absolutely nothing and the freedom she found in that. There isn't anything wrong with owning property or holding on to special pieces; at least there isn't anything absolutely wrong with it. But when property stands in front of God in the affections of one's heart, THAT is absolutely wrong. When I hold on to stuff and squeeze out room for God's Spirit to move and speak in my life, I'm choosing what's lesser over what's greater. And I do it without ever knowing what I'm missing.

I don't have answers here yet, not for me and certainly not for anyone else. I don't know if I'm going to keep all my copies of the Lord of the Rings yet, or any of the other books still standing on my shelves. I'm sitting with the tension today, in between wanting familiar stuff around me and wanting more of God's voice and presence and movement in this life. I'll sit in between today and listen for what this tension has to teach me.