Yesterday was trash day in my friend’s neighborhood. Outside each townhouse big, green garbage cans were lined up in rows like a company of dumpy, plastic soldiers waiting for inspection. As the collection truck lumbered down the street, the routine was the same:
Lift the can. Dump the can. Return the can. Leave no trash behind.
Normally this procedure is of no interest to anyone outside of the sanitation workers. But yesterday, my friend was out walking her dog and happened to notice two little slips of paper that were left behind after her neighbor’s garbage can was moved. Under the spot where the trash once sat lay this perfectly formed cross. (see left)
You may think it’s silly to take notice of a few bits of discarded packing paper, but I couldn’t help but see a beautiful metaphor in what was captured by my friend’s camera. Most of the time, we let a lot of trash accumulate in our lives. Instead of getting rid of the junk quickly, we stuff it away, hoping that if we keep it out of sight, it won’t really matter if it stays around. But here’s the thing about trash… the longer it sits, the bigger the pile becomes and the messier it is to get rid of. As more and more accumulates, the waste and neglect threaten to smother good intentions and hope for change. The stench of self-centeredness permeates our relationships, the putridness of arrogance and pride seeps into our activities, piles of addictions and malformed attitudes clog up our souls, and stuffed into the crevices of our hearts is the decay of materialism.
They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull,which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. ~John 19:17
Depending on the original language, the Scripture identifies the place where Jesus was crucified as either Golgotha or Calvary. In Christian art, this place is often depicted as a grassy hillside, a craggy mountain, or along a well-traveled road, but many scholars insist that the place of Christ’s crucifixion was really overlooking the trash dump for Jerusalem. It was far from picturesque or pleasant. Instead, it was a dirty, smelly and nasty place where Jews piled their refuse, and Romans discarded the bodies of executed criminals. That doesn’t make for a nice greeting card scene, but it does contain a powerful message for believers.
In a way, God is the great recycler! He sent Jesus to die in a trash heap to remind us that He can fashion our greatest failures and weaknesses into valuable assets if we will yield and let Him do His transforming work. Hebrews 11 gives a long list of people, including Noah, Moses, Abraham, David and Samuel, who brought their brokenness to God and allowed Him to change it into deep abiding faith that altered nations and still impacts generations today. What He did for them, He desires to do for you. He wants to convert your regrets, refurbish your pain, and renovate your disappointments to make them a useful source of healing, wholeness and redemption for you and those around you.
Our Heavenly Father is an expert in restoration, and turning trash into treasure… and as my friend discovered yesterday, at the bottom of His renovating work, you’ll always find the cross of Christ!