Tim Benjamin article printed in the Evening Leader on Sept 30, 2019
When I moved to become the new pastor a little over a year ago, Wayne Street UMC gave me a nice big office. In that office are some great book shelves. The reason those shelves are there is because for years, pastors were known to have big libraries of books they have read. Many pastors’ offices I have been in through the years have books overflowing on the shelves into boxes on the floor. When I moved in, I didn’t bring any books with me. To be honest, I don’t own any books. When I buy a book, I read it and give it away. I know that many of my seminary professors would disown me because of this practice. They all loved books. I love books too, but I don’t see the value of a book on a shelf. It doesn’t help my prestige and it doesn’t make me feel any better about myself to have a book catching dust in my office.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a prolific reader. I read a lot of books, but I read them all on my Kindle. So I have a few hundred books in my possession, but I don’t own any paper copies out where you can see them. I got tired of people laughing at my lack of a library, so on one of my shelves, I have my Kindle displayed for all to see. That Kindle is far less heavy to move than a big box of books.
I watch as people come into my office and look at the empty shelves. For a long time, I thought they were judging me for my lack of books. However, now I am not so sure that judgement is what is on their mind. I now see they look at those empty shelves because they are trying to figure out what they are walking into. Who am I as a person? I do the same thing when I walk into a place for the first time. I am looking around the room for clues to the person I am there to see. We do that any time we walk into a room.
That got me to thinking – what do you have on display in your life? When people meet you for the first time, they are looking at the display shelves of your life; what do they see? This includes appearance, but it is more than that. What do you have out there for people to latch onto so that they know something about you? People are very quick to formulate impressions about you based on what you put on display. How much thought have you put into what you are displaying?
All too often, I think we are closing other people off without realizing it. Body language and first impressions are so important. If we aren’t careful what we put on the display shelves of our lives, it might end up being a big “Do Not Disturb” sign that pushes other people away. That is a shame because you might be cheating yourself and someone you don’t know out of a very uplifting interaction without even realizing it.
Because of this, I like the empty shelves. I want people to start talking to me with no preconceived notions and no clues as to who I am. I want to be the one who makes the first impression, not those shelves. Besides, a hundred pounds of old books says exactly what about a person? I like killing trees? I hope that my personality is more interesting than that.
So I ask you to take some time and consider what first impression you are making on the people who enter your life. God has made it very clear that one of the biggest blessings he gives us is each other, even when we irritate each other. Are you putting your best foot forward? It might make the difference between a friendly greeting you quickly forget or a lasting friendship for years to come.