Sometimes I am tempted to think of my life as a filing cabinet.
There are just so many compartments in my mind. At the start of every week I write three lists over a double page spread in my notebook.
On the left hand side I have a whole page under the heading CHURCH (which for me is work)
Then on the right two headings: COLLEGE and PERSONAL.
Under each heading all the major tasks for the week ahead get jotted down, then at the end of the week, stuff that hasn’t been done, gets moved onto the next week’s list.
Its a system. Not particularly brilliant or original but it works for me. Most of my life falls into one of these three categories.
CHURCH – small group, baptism prep, sermons, services, visits, meetings, agendas, email etc etc
COLLEGE – assignments and reading
PERSONAL – hair cuts, arrangements for dog, dentist appointments, triathlon training, keeping in touch with kids/family
But of course every sub-heading can come to require a drawer all of its own and when life flows smoothly the drawers slide out and back with appropriate ease and frequency…. but when does that ever happen?
Mostly life gets messy and sometimes it feels like I have a unruly set of filing cabinet drawers that throw themselves out at me and kick me in the shins if I so much as go near them. Several drawers choose to slide open and closed spontaneously and discharge their contents most alarmingly.
In the ‘filing cabinet’ that is my life I have two very deep and commodious ‘drawers’ (no sniggering please, these drawers represent my children not my undies). Although fully grown adults whose lives are fully their own, I know they are more than a sub-set of mine but they still take up a huge amount of space in my consciousness.
Right at the back of these two drawers are ‘first pairs of shoes’, ‘tiny baby teeth in jars’ and pictures of ‘my mummy’ drawn at infant school. All treasured relics from infancy. None of this is the stuff of problems. It’s when one of these drawers overflow that problems arise: and one of them currently is regularly flying open and tipping its current overflow of ‘stuff’ in my direction. By ‘stuff’, I mean a mix of mad ideas, life-threatening challenges, countless impending uncertainties and half a dozen minor crises.
All of which is hard for a mother to ignore but ignore it I must because all I’m required to do is pick my way very carefully around the mess because this is not ‘my stuff’ to sort out. Even though it’s been left in my head and heart space, all I am required to do is love and listen. The days of ‘sorting it all out before bedtime’ have long gone. Now I have to fight the urge to ‘tidy up’, resolve the problem neatly and push the drawer back closed because people you love are allowed to clutter up your head/heart space (within reason).
I have one other drawer currently overflowing and generally being a nuisance, this one is marked ‘health’: It is bulging with pills, packets of bonjela, dental appointments and blood test forms. All very annoying. Wish I could close the file on that one. (And I now have a new drawer called ‘tax returns for clergy- that one’s a total nightmare and I refuse to even open it without an armed escort aka ‘my husband’!)
Thinking about all this has made me wonder how God copes with everything on his ‘to do’ list. I think his weekly double page spread might be a tad fuller than mine!
Does God have compartments in his mind? Does he have sub-headings and ‘drawers’ in some cosmic filing cabinet? Is there a cabinet labelled ‘Sheila Bridge 1962- 20??’ And if there is, does it annoy God that all the drawers of my cabinet steadfastly refuse to stay tidily closed?
I know I am anything but tidily filed away. I’m sure I keep all the drawers of my life sliding backwards and forwards in a most annoying way and I also regularly take out the contents and dump it ALL on the floor (so to speak): ‘Look at this mess God: mad ideas, scary challenges, pending decisions and unresolved issues’ seems I’m not so different from my offspring then.
So, I wonder, how much head and heart space do I take up in God’s filing system? The Bible tells me in Psalm 139 that God thinks about me ‘constantly‘. Surely not? Not with so many people to care for?
But there it is: ‘How precious it is Lord to realise that you are thinking about me constantly! I can’t even count how many times a day your thoughts turn towards me’. Verse 17, 18
And even though that’s the Living Bible rendition and not a translation, I’m going to choose to believe it because no one who keeps such close tabs on me (knowing when I sit and rise, when I come and go, what I’ll say before I even say it verses 1-5) could do all that without thinking of me constantly.
How does he do it? I have no idea but thinking about myself as a mother and how my children’s concerns fill my life gives me an inkling. My children will never be simply a ‘drawer’ in my life, whether they are actually present or even being actively thought about, I carry an awareness of them with me at all times and in all places.
‘See I have engraved you on the palms of my hands’ says God (Isaiah 49:16) just after he says ‘can a mother ever forget her own child?’ the closest we humans get to ludicrous impossibility. So God says, how could I ever forget you?
(After I had mostly written this piece I was directed to a beautiful children’s book called Soul bird by Michal Snunit all about our souls being a bird with a filing cabinet full of feelings. The idea is expressed much more poetically than that and I recommend it. So my idea was not original, but neither is it as ridiculous as it it might have first appeared)