While in the middle of this crazy move from Connecticut to Alabama, I have found myself living in two completely different cultures. Our Connecticut home is plopped right in the middle of a rural town complete with free range chickens, goats, horses, maple syrup on tap , abundant trees (did you know that Connecticut is one of THE most “treed” areas in the U.S.?? — no kidding !), and limited street lights that seem oh-so-randomly-placed around our small town. In contrast, our Alabama home is nestled right in the heart of the city with the sounds of trucks, sirens, city buses, enough street lights to make you think you’re at a football stadium on Friday night, and instead of live animal smells, you might smell something of that nature being cooked — (we live across the street from a place called “Livers and Gizzards” — again, no kidding !)
However, one thing in particular I am learning from our new neighborhood in the city has forever changed the way I look at “junk”…you know–scraps … broken, bent, rusty, worn out, old things with missing parts, outdated, tarnished, or used up empty containers. Now I’m already a HUGE thrift store “junkie” but this new revelation has taken that thrill to a whole new level ! We just happen to have bought a little fix-me-upper house (which I might add has been fixed up now — yay !!!) very near a scrap metal place . Of course, “scrap metal place” is our street term for it but it has a much more dignified, professional name…”Tennessee Valley Recycling”. No lie, as best I understand, these metal recycling places will give you anywhere from .07 – 3.00 / pound for your old , broken down, miss-matched metal or copper wiring and that, my friend, would translate your 50 pounds of “junk” to a value anywhere from $3.50 all the way up to $150.00 , depending on what your “junk” is made of !!! (Don’t you love that phrase — “depending on what your junk is made of !!?? — Oh the sermon illustrations that could come out of that alone !!)
Now I’ve heard the phrase a million times…”one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” but when I saw our pile of scrap metal we had put out by the side of the road get scooped up almost within the hour, I knew this phrase to be true ! We now live in a place where items of garbage, refuse and junk can become someone’s meal money and income. Now words like “junk”, “trash”, “scraps”, “odd parts” and “broken” have morphed into words like “recycled”, “rich compost bearing luscious fruit”, “mosaics”, landscaping “mulch”– and don’t those words give “trash” such dignified status? Scraps actually have value. What might sit out in my yard for days — even weeks — in my more well-off neighborhood in Connecticut, is scooped up in almost seconds in my poorer neighborhood in Alabama because scraps have value — they are life-sustaining in some cases to an under-resourced group of people or, should I say, people who can see the potential in that hunk of junk.
At this point I wish I had a light bulb that would just light up right out of the computer screen because that’s exactly the feeling I got when I realized Jesus is in the junk business and He is well acquainted with the despised, rejected, thrown out, and broken. Only His “business” is taking old, worn out, rejected, abandoned, broken people and “recycling” them into beautiful lives who display His splendor. In my favorite Book, He says things like:
…bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of spirit of despair…(Isaiah 61:3)
They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; the will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations. (Isaiah 61:4)
Instead of their shame my people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; and so they will inherit a double portion in their land, and everlasting joy will be theirs. (Isaiah 61:7)
But the pot He was shaping from the clay was marred in His hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. (Jeremiah 18:4)
Jesus recycles !!! He looks at the broken, old, worn out, rusty, embarrassing, fragmented and unusable scraps of my life (and your’s) and actually turns them into something beautiful and desirable and usable and functioning! He takes the stuff I’ve hidden in the basement for so long and brings it out in the open and makes the most amazing piece of art for others to enjoy and be encouraged by ! And on top of all that…I think He gets a big thrill out of the whole process !! I mean, He’s like a Pinterest fanatic who likes to “pin” pictures of all He has restored , re-purposed and recycled… a “planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.” (Isaiah 61:3)
I don’t know about you but I’ve got places I’d rather not show off and pull out of the basement or closet — anxiety, depression, pride, overeating, laziness, being judgmental, selfish (to name a few) — and yet God says He loves to take the foolish, weak things of this world to confound the wise and display His glory and strength. Really??? Why not my beautiful , talented stuff?? Why my yucky stuff? Can’t we just start out with a beautiful piece of art and call it a day?? And God says to those questions in Isaiah 55:8 …
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.
And why on earth and heaven might that work best? I am beginning to believe that it’s because when my “anxiety” (fill in your own “junk” here) is recycled by God and displayed for all to see as “beautiful”, I am guarded against pride and arrogance and self-sufficiency , which only leads to an over-inflated ego anyway. Instead, I am humbled at His grace as He said in 2 Corinthians 12:9:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
And instead of pointing to “my beautiful creation” , I point to the Creator of all beauty…and point others to the true source of the “new creation” He has made in me …
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17
So go ahead!! Take your scraps of life to the curb (“one man’s trash) and let God pick them up and recycle them into something beautiful beyond your wildest imagination (another Man’s treasure) and please share some of those stories with others so they can be thrilled with you — and be encouraged that they are not alone in this recycling story God calls grace !
(Scripture quotations are taken from the New International Version)