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COMPLETE SILENCE


In college, one of the jobs I had was working in a medical file warehouse. Talk about mundane, boring, monotonous. These were huge warehouses that contained millions of files from hospitals all over the San Francisco Bay Area. I did one of three things: I pulled a file for a patient in a hospital somewhere; I put the patient's file back after the hospital was done with it; I threw out the file when the hospital asked for it to be purged. If you know your ABC's, you too could do this job.


Each warehouse had rows and rows of files reaching over 20 feet high. It was a very quiet job. The many files in these warehouses super insulated the sound so that if person was more than one row away -- you couldn't hear them. If there was another person in one of these vast places, unless they were in your line of sight, you would have no idea they were even there. It was as if you were completely alone. There was absolute silence.


There were no windows, there were no skylights -- just millions and millions of files. It was very difficult to keep track of time, it was very difficult to stay focused. I could be filing for six hours but think only two hours had gone by.


Most people would last about two weeks, and then they would quit, usually out of exasperation and many would just leave during the day and never come back. They would just lose it.


I guess they would just get to a point and see how meaningless the job was. It didn't matter how fast one could file; there were always more files. After putting away ten boxes of files, the shelves looked exactly the same as when one started. One could work at a feverish pace, and it hardly made much of a difference. "If I take this file out, it is only coming back. If I put this file away, it is only coming out again." At the end of the day, it was meaningless.


Our Scripture from Ecclesiastes sums up that job at the medical file warehouse: Eccl. 1:9 "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again..."


{SERMON HERE IN THE MIDDLE OF ILLUSTRATION}


Myself, I loved that filing job. There, I found peace and quiet. There was a place where I could finally clear my mind and think, pray or memorize study notes for college while I worked. For me, it was a wonderful place of peaceful solitude.


I knew that every file folder wasn't just a medical file; every file I placed on those shelves, every file I took off those shelves represented a life -- a mother, a brother, a sister, a father. Every file was not something random; no, it was loved, it was cared for, it represented a very real person. Most of the time I read the names and placed those folders on the shelf without a second thought, filing as fast as I could. Though, there were times I was moved to pray for the person who belonged to a particular file -- perhaps that was the only prayer said for them....


The hardest part of the job came as a surprise to me. One Saturday afternoon I was directed to a far corner of warehouse number three. I was to remove about one hundred boxes of files out for shredding. No one else was willing to move these boxes, these were the dreaded, "boxes of death". They were huge oversized boxes full of files of people who had died in the various hospitals around the San Francisco Bay Area.


I tell you, I was taken back. I stood in front of literally hundreds and hundreds of files. Those boxes represented the loss of hundreds of lives; it was a bit overwhelming. I just sat down and stared at the huge stack of files for quite some time. I guess I knew that chances were that someday a file with my name would be stamped expired, stuffed into a box and hauled off to a dark corner until some kid threw out the last record of my life without a second thought. I never expected moving boxes to be a solemn experience.


Finally, after some time, I don't know how long, my boss Roger came back and said, "Peter, let's move these boxes together." As we moved those boxes of files, I realized how God had made sure the warehouse would be completely silent--for a time such as this.

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