If I did not know better, I would think that Solomon wrote this verse just for me; however, I realize that it also may apply to other people—especially librarians. Like me, most of the librarians I know display at least some Type A personality behavior. In fact, this desire for perfection helps most of us do our jobs better.
What led you to become a Christian? What led you to become a librarian? More importantly, what has led you to remain a Christian librarian through the passage of time? As Christians, engaging with our loved ones and neighbors in a world increasingly ignorant and hostile toward the faith can push us to retreat or to abandon our hope. As librarians, leaving the honeymoon phase of our work along with the awe that once drew us to libraries can result in discouragement and burnout. As Christian librarians, we are challenged with staying true to our calling, both spiritually and professionally.
If you’ve been in Christian circles for any amount of time, there is no doubt you’ve seen this verse on bookmarks, t-shirts, mementos, and home décor. For many years I used this verse with exuberance as a battle cry, “Watch out, world! I can accomplish anything through Christ.”
Each fall semester I teach a section of Palm Beach Atlantic University’s First Year Experience course. This course is designed to assist first year students as they acclimate to college life and help them develop the skills they need in order to succeed, both in college and beyond. I start each class session off with a devotion. The verse that I share on the very first day of class is Job 8:7. Although the Book of Job may be an unusual choice to begin the year with, I like starting with this verse because it is a good reminder that we are all growing, and that there may be some suffering along the way. Things may seem overwhelming at times, especially when you are new, whether you’re a new student or a new employee. But in the end, when you look back over your time at a particular institution or a specific phase of your life, you can see how much you learned and grew.
Imagine a young boy who did not like memory work being asked by his grandparents to memorize the One Hundredth Psalm for the thank offering over a weekend. The incentive was to earn one dollar and learn more about our God. I spent the weekend with the Bible working on memorizing this psalm in the two upstairs bedrooms. Finally, on the second day I could say it all the way through. I took the Bible with me, gave it to Grandma, and stood to recite it in front of my grandparents who were sitting in two walnut rocking chairs. That sunny afternoon on the front porch of a farm house in the Ozarks was fragrant with fresh cut hay and lilacs in the air and accompanied by the song (pretty, pretty pretty) of the cardinals in the surrounding trees.
The Christian life is like a three-legged race: in order to get anywhere without being frustrated, one needs to walk in step with one’s partner. Ultimately that partner is Christ, who spoke of being “yoked together” (Matthew 11:28-30).
In our world of librarianship, we have the opportunity to touch many lives in our day-to-day work—students, faculty, staff, alumni, and visitors. We can do this with a spirit of affirmation or one of evaluation. Do we have a smile, listen carefully to their questions, or notice that they are having a bad day? Or do we have a sharp word, a scowl on our face, or a judgmental spirit?
On the day Mary Oliver died, a friend posted her poem, “The Summer Day,” with its poignant closing lines:
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
As I fast approach retirement, much of my thoughts have been about the meaning of service. Service has been my calling and profession for over forty years. Of course, librarianship is a career deeply rooted in service. Within higher education it is typical for libraries to be associated with other academic support services.