Sumter Pastor Clay Smith: Lost papers...


If you no longer follow the news, you may have missed the stories about the lost files of Donald Trump and Joe Biden. The quick summary is this: Top-secret files were found at Mar-a-Lago, President Trump's home in Florida. Weeks later, top-secret files were found at President Biden's office from his vice president days, and later, in his garage and at his beach house. Naturally, the media is having a field day with this story.

I get it, however. Not being the most organized person in the world myself, I looked at the pile of papers on my desk and decided to investigate. I want to make sure I have not overlooked any top-secret documents.

My first discovery are notes from a meeting held last month. Definitely belongs in the trash. Then I find the outline of an article I meant to write two years ago and never started. A file folder for a workshop I was to lead but was canceled by COVID-19 is the next thing unearthed.

Digging deeper in the pile, I find a message series I outlined five years ago. Looking at it now, I am glad it never saw the light of day. There is an empty file folder for a teaching assignment long past, an outline of my leadership philosophy and a folder full of sermon ideas, some of which date back to the 1990s.

Getting toward the bottom of the pile, I found a newsletter from Aug. 4, 2000. My picture is on the newsletter, offering proof I once had hair. At the very bottom is a spiral notebook from a seminar I attended. The information it contains is valuable, but I don't know where to put it. It doesn't fit on my bookshelf, and it is too big for my file cabinet. So it sits in my paper pile, slowly decaying.

My paper deluge is amplified by the fact I have three desks. I was describing the desk in my study; my office desk is neater, mostly because that office is where I meet people. I do have a stack of books on that desk; however, they have not yet made it to my study. These are books I feel obligated to read because someone gave them to me, or they are books I am not interested in, but they were free. I find it so hard to throw away a free book.

My desk at home is by far the messiest. It is also the smallest. One stack of papers contains articles about the orange and cattle businesses. Another stack of papers is the beginning of my tax documents for the year. Still another stack is for my little herd of cows in South Carolina. This desk can feel claustrophobic.

I am a long way from being president of the United States. I can't imagine how much paper the president deals with in a day. Given the breadth of our government, even the number of top-secret files the president sees every day must number in the dozens.

Most presidents hate to leave the White House. Bill Clinton hated to leave so much, on the night before George W. Bush's inauguration, he said he was opening drawers and dumping the contents into boxes with no thought of organization. No wonder top-secret files get jumbled in with regular stuff. I can imagine aides of the president in those last hectic days picking up a stack of files and dumping them into boxes with that familiar lie: "We will sort through all this later."

Then I think about all God has to keep track of. Do you realize God never has to write anything down to remember it? There is no angel who transcribes God's meeting notes. He remembers it all. That blows my mind. God has never misplaced a star nor lost a comet. According to Jesus, our Heavenly Father is aware of every sparrow and knows the number of hairs on our heads. It is estimated that some 117 billion people have lived throughout human history. It is also estimated the average person has 100,000 hairs on their head. When I tried to calculate this on my computer, my calculator app whimpered and then gave me an answer of 1.17e+16. I have no idea what that means other than God has known a lot of hairs in his day.

Your Heavenly Father also never loses sight of you. He knows where you are, what you struggle with, what brings you joy and what sin keeps you down. Our Heavenly Father can remember your childhood, and he knows your future. This promise, I think, is the basis for the old hymn, "Safe in the Arms of Jesus." He knows you and holds you safe.

It does make me wonder, before a president leaves office, if he or she should pray, "Heavenly Father, please show where the top-secret files are, so I can turn them in before I go." It couldn't hurt.

The Rev. Dr. Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter. Email him at