December 12, 1995
The poster says, “A clean desk is a symptom of a sick mind.”
Whether my mind is hale and hearty is debatable, but one thing is certain, my desk is never clean. At the moment, one side hosts a stack of research for something I am writing, two magazines, a calculator and three letters. The other side is buried under a pile of receipts, two cassette tapes, a glass of water, a book, reminder notices of events, my cordless phone (the cradle is somewhere) a box of diskettes, a basket of pens, memo paper, some business cards, and an open notebook stuffed with loose pieces of “to do” notes to myself.
The mess bothers me enough to clear it off about once a week but in no time it is messy again. Actually, according to a verse in Proverbs, I should be proud of the mess. The verse says, “Where there is no oxen, the stall is clean.”
Solomon, who wrote most of Proverbs, knew if a living, working animal was around, a mess could be expected. If nothing else, my messy desk indicates I am alive and working.
Also, my mess has a redeeming quality — it is never the same. This morning, the pile included two boxes of tissue, a cross stitch kit, three magazines and an invoice for my mother. By tonight, the contents of the mess will change again. To paraphrase that Proverb: “Where there is life and activity, there will be a mess to clean up!”
Active living creates debris of all kinds. There would be no “messes” if we never did anything, never took risks, never created, never involved ourselves in work or play. Desks would be clean — as would homes, garages and life — clean, but uneventful and boring.
The risk takers in life endure fatigue, physical harm, emotional downturns, ridicule, and failure. Those things can be “messy.” But without risk, there would be no exploration, no conquests, no inventions, nothing new. So along with adventure, risk takers usually have to clean up — the first man to use fire had to carry out the ashes — but his cave was warm.
As far as taking risks goes, God qualifies. Imagine the angels when they first heard His plan to redeem the world: “What? Risk Your only Son in a virgin birth? Have Him raised by ordinary parents? Why have Him become something so vulnerable as a human being?”
Maybe they added, “You mean Your plan for Him includes only three and one-half years of preaching and teaching? And it will climax with everyone deserting Him? And the religious leaders hating and killing Him? Oh, what a mess that would be!”
Even riskier were three days in a grave, a resurrection, then returning to heaven leaving a handful of astounded disciples to manage the message of redemption. How could God trust the greatest story in the world to mere sinners, stubborn and slow to learn? Would they do the job and take the message that Jesus died and rose again to the whole world?
Perhaps God said to the angels, “This is my plan. If the disciples do not succeed, it is the only plan I have. I am willing to risk it.” So He did.
The disciples took a risk too. When they took the Gospel to the world, most of them were persecuted and killed. Only John lived to old age and he died in exile. Some would call them failures yet generations later, other risk takers have heard and passed it on, taking the risk of fatigue, persecution, ridicule and physical harm. By God’s grace, the power of the Gospel continues to transform ruined lives and mend broken homes.
Christians who avoid the cost (sometimes very messy) of sharing the Gospel will discover that not working might give them “clean stalls” but tied to their safe, no-risk choice is boredom, spiritual lethargy and a vague sense of wondering if they are in the right place.