Dumpster Diving

We had the yard sale Saturday – Finally! It was sunny and September-ish and lovely, and I would have panicked during the first two hours when NO ONE CAME, except that our landlord’s young grandsons came out to hang with us and we got to play ball and push toy trucks around in a stroller and all other kinds of made up fun. And then, when I’d lost all hope and started mentally redecorating our place with all the junk we’d decided to get rid of…they came. The people. And they bought stuff!

So Mom Lady, I hope your son likes the baby books. And Boyfriend Dude, I think you rock for buying your girlfriend a leather jacket & a purse. And Guy Who Looked Kinda Grumpy Until You Smiled, I hope the wallet holds all your stuff and that you bust some groovy moves once you get the iHome installed.

It was fun to watch our old belongings get carried away to new homes. It felt like a Toy Story moment, where all of these things could be used & given life again, rather than just being piled away in storage with the rocks and the pickles.  More than once we heard passersby say, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure!”  Indeed.

UnknownThis thought was still in my mind as I sipped coffee and soaked in the surprising Sunday morning quiet of the city the next day. I was re-reading Love Story by Nichole Nordeman. Ostensibly, this was for a talk I’m giving this weekend. But the book did a number on me – her soothing words washing over me like soft, cool waves – so I can’t really just call it work.

I love how she describes Jesus’ time here on earth as hanging out next to the dumpster. How he pulls us out of the trash andimages helps us see that we’re not some silly finger painting a child dashed off and then threw away.  “That’s where Jesus sets up shop for his short stay on our broken planet,” she says. “Next to the Dumpster. Every day he rolls up his sleeves, lurches over the side, and lowers himself into the muck so he can begin recovering and restoring the remains of his Father’s original perfect work.”

We are, each of us, a masterpiece created by God. Which is (lets be honest) difficult to imagine as we glance around inside the dumpster looking for anything that suggests “priceless work of art.” Because many of us go through our days looking and feeling mass produced, not very special or important, easily replaced.  Making the best of life in the dumpster because whatever we were created for – if we were created for anything – didn’t quite work out.

Into this feeling come Nichole’s words:

“I like to think of Jesus as an art therapist,” she says, “I imagine him coaxing people out of the shadows. Pulling back their filthy blankets. Building a fire to warm their hands.  Asking, Peter, what happened? Why are you living like this? Oh friend, I’m so sorry to find you here…  Wait, Matthew, is that you? How did it get this bad buddy? You look like you haven’t slept for weeks. It’s okay. We’re gonna sort this out. Tell me your story….  Judas. Judas! Don’t act like you didn’t hear me. Come here! No? Fine. I’m coming in. No, I will not leave you alone. What do I want? Well, a hug for starters.  Then we can talk. I want to know your story…”

I think this captivated me because it’s so clear who is doing the work. Jesus. We are in the dumpster, making the best of it. We make dumpster to-do lists and subscribe to Fly Lady for email advice on how to tidy up the dumpster, and believe that if only someone would throw away this or that thing we think we need, life would finally be complete and okay. Or at least better. Bearable. But it’s not. And we know it. and Jesus knows it.

Jesus is the way out of the dumpster. He’s the one with the audacity to suggest we might like it better outside – that there’s a whole big world to live in and he’d love to show us around and help us re-imagine our lives.  As Nichole says, when Jesus shows up at the Dumpster, God says Let There Be Light once more.  And we get to walk away, into a new life and a new story.

One man’s trash is Another Man’s treasure. Indeed.