There is no easy way to DELETE somebody. Yesterday I cleaned up the address book on my computer. The list of supposed friends and colleagues grew to over 1000 entries; the size of an average phone book in African villages. I am a compulsive purger in every area of my life. I throw out clothes, books, gadgets, and food with reckless abandon. Many days, I stumble around the house searching for something I assume is lost (where is my machete?) only to be reminded by my wife - who has a photographic memory when she needs evidence of my idiocy - that I threw it out years ago. The process of purging the address book was not entirely graceful but it had to be done. Some of the names represented real relationships that once were integral to my life. Friends and neighbors from cities I inhabited are now erased. Other people have changed jobs so many times the email addresses I had wouldn't work even if I did want to reach out. Last names had changed because of marriage or divorce. As I moved methodically down the list, I suspended lofty ideals concerning the sacredness of life in all it's forms (even digital) and administered swift justice. Each name was mercilessly interrogated with this question: Will the quality of my life decrease if I never talk to this person again?
My entire life since acquiring my first computer almost 10 years ago had scrolled by in a mere 30 minutes and it was all so depressing. Names that I should know, names representing real people that at some point were important enough to me that I wrote them down, floated by one after another to rest in peace, forever forgotten. Where did those memories go and would they ever be resurrected? Did they forget me as easily as I forgot them? Should I have kept their entry as a memorial to that moment when we met?
Life is happening all around us, whether we are noticing it or not. Despite our insistence that we are the masters of our domain, exercises like this one remind us that our mastery stinks. I can't remember the names of my upstairs neighbors from six years ago - the ones we ate dinner with and exercised beside. To believe that God knows the number of hairs on my head all of a sudden requires another leap of faith. Thankfully God knows us but isn't like us. I like to imagine that God is more of a hoarder than a purger.