From time to time I have people who consider themselves neatniks come by my office. The way they sit down, you can sense that they are displeased with my desk that has papers going in all directions. I visited a friend on a Sunday evening and I commented about the way how his desk looked and he told me that every Saturday evening he places everything in a box under the desk because he has an excessive neatnik in his church. She has transformed the well-known statement "cleanliness is next to godliness" into "a clean desk is a sign of a godly minister." I felt much better after hearing that story!
For the past few weeks, at the beginning of each week I had the great intention of clearing my desk by the end of the week. Some of the papers got cleared off, but others came along. I was working on my six-month preaching schedule and that brought up papers and commentaries on my desk. As I was working on that subject, the seminary finals papers were turned in and because they were so many, I found another desk upon which to grade them. As the last batch of papers came to the end, I started to work on a sermon and a paper that I was invited to present at the American Baptists of New Jersey Convention in September. In the midst of that exciting activity I received the confirmation that I was accepted to give another paper at the evangelicals' meeting in San Diego in November.
No matter what I do there are more papers on my desk. For a while I considered sending a reply to the San Diego group, but that paper is buried somewhere on my desk and I just could not find it. Sometimes I work my papers from the top to bottom, but sometimes remembering that the last shall be the first, I start my day doing the papers at the bottom of the pile!
My kids tell me that we are moving toward the paperless society, but I assign that piece of wisdom in the same category with the advice that my Chinese friend Paul gave me. He told me many years ago that the study of Hebrew and Greek were a waste of time, and that instead I should study Chinese. Even though the Chinese have increased greatly since our seminary days, the study of Hebrew and Greek is still valid.
Maybe my kids' prediction should become one of my goals - mastering the art of working without paper on my desk. Learning to gather data, write, edit and do everything on the computer. Maybe I should place that idea together with my other goal of running in a 5-mile race by the time I am 60!
I can see that happen! I can even see the surprise on my friend's face when he comes to my office and there is nothing on my desk! Because for the sake of a perfect desk I will even hide my computer!