Please Recycle

recycle tree

I’m an advocate of recycling. I like reusable bags, electric cars, and Whole Foods. I want to help take care of  the earth, reduce my carbon footprint, be socially responsible with my consumer waste, etcetera, etcetera. I recycle empty toilet paper rolls, plastic wrap, used paper, glass, and pretty much any other items that are fit for the green can. Who’s with me here?

One of the other ways I love to “recycle” is by raiding the closets in my home and purging them of dated items and clothing that have been forgotten or outgrown. Once or twice a year, I arm myself with several bags and make my way through each room and bedroom. My kids know the drill well. Together, we go through each closet, drawer, hamper, and hanger – sorting and evaluating each piece of clothing and other accouterments that have seen better days. Some items, those that are torn or broken, hit the trash. Most of it gets stuffed into bags for donation. After a few minor arguments and conversations about the evils of hoarding, I load my car up with the unnecessary mammon and drive off.

And then comes the BEST freaking part of the whole process – I arrive at goodwill.

I pull in front of the store and honk the horn, which summons the attendant to receive my bags of crap, er – donations. (You might be asking why I might be compelled to alert the staff at goodwill that I’m dropping off stuff? Cuz there’s a sign on the building that says you can’t leave bags outside of the store without notification, or you risk getting prosecuted. Yep. It would be my dumb luck to get busted for leaving unattended bags at the store, so I honk the horn. Seriously, I would be the one – probably the only one in recorded history – to get fined for donating. Not kidding.)

Anyway, after I unload my bags, I get back into the empty car, and drive away. Freedom! I am almost giddy about it, even as I write. The drive home is filled with good feelings of satisfaction and I can’t wait to get back to my freshly organized home. I love unloading crap. I despise feeling the burden of stuff junking up my space. Ok, I’ll admit, there are times when I drive away and momentarily regret giving away a really comfy sweatshirt or well-worn jeans, but I quickly push the thought away and relish the purge.

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about the crap that has often junked up my life. Specifically the garbage that can clog my heart and weigh heavily on my spirit. Things like fear, anger, resentment, loneliness, sadness…

in the stormThese things have been on my mind because I had a really awful 2013. And when I say that, I mean it was one of the most trying years of my life. Upside down, messed-up, crazy, tumultuous, and über painful. In those twelve months, my family saw an onslaught of constant faith-testing, mind-blowing, soul-jarring times. By the end of the year, I found myself so weighed down by the byproducts of my circumstances, I could barely stand. I had no joy, little hope, and my faith was in shreds. I was broken.

I came to a crossroads. I could choose to hang on to the pain in my life, or give it to God. I chose to hand it over to Jesus. For real. I took each thing, day by day, hour by hour, and gave it, big or small, over to Him. I started living Psalm 55:22. “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous to be shaken.” I gave Him the fear holding me captive to my circumstances and turned over the anger I’d felt because things didn’t seem right – or fair.

And I trusted and cast and dumped my crap at the foot of the cross. Nasty stuff. I began to feel peace, joy, and for the first time in a long time, hope. Had my circumstances changed. Nope. Yet, I stood firm, eyes fixed on God and his promises. Trusting. Faithful. My heart was full. JOY-filled.

At the start of the new year, another series of events blew in. I held on to hope, at first with a mighty faith, and then as time passed, with an unsteady hand. What seemed like overnight, my circumstances grew worse. I could hardly believe it as a sequence of virulent assaults on my family became typical of each week that passed. It was unreal. I was ready to trust God in the storm, but I started to fade in the cyclone. I started to get soaked and cold – and I wanted my sweatshirt back. With each attack on my family, I became more wary and weary.

And then it happened. I walked to the cross and picked up the crap I had already dropped off at the feet of Jesus. I remember the day I reclaimed some of my fear. It was terrifying, but sadly, fear was more familiar to me than hope, so I felt a strange comfort in it somehow. Then, as the storm raged, the fear began to escalate and, of course, fear is a lonely companion, so I grabbed a little bit of my anger back. (And besides, didn’t I have a right to be upset about things going so wrong?) As I picked it up, I could feel my soul being tugged. It was Him. But I resisted God’s pull, and instead, invited some resentment to tag along. Sounds like a great party, right? Save yourself, please.

My Bible got dusty and I got sad. And I cried and lamented. I tried to stay strong, but instead, my hope began to disappear. And one day, I told myself my situation was so intolerable, I couldn’t deal anymore. I began to think that taking off to stay with a friend on the ocean’s edge would be a fantastic way to deal with my problems. Hide. Flee. Just GO. Great idea? Not so much.

God knew where I was at. I felt my soul tugged once more. At the end of the fray of the twisted rope that I was barely clinging to, I remembered.

His sovereignty.

His promises.

I know how sustaining and healing hope actually is. Not hope in things changing for the better, or hope in my circumstances, friends, children, or my spouse. Hope in the ALMIGHTY. And hope brings joy and peace – in the storm and in the cyclone. At that moment, because I know that God is good, I started to weep.

I’m going to be totally honest – it was the ugly cry. I prayed and cried and prayed some more. I asked God to forgive me for digging in the trash for comfort when I should have rested under His wing. Proverbs 13:12 says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” In my life, hope was deferred, and I was sick as a dog. But, if I am the one deferring the hope because my hope is in the things going on around me, I’m going to stay ill and feeble and weak. And hopeless. My longing needs to be for GOD and His peace, His joy, and His hope. Not some lame, false hope in…well, crap.

If I stay in a place where I hold on to things that belong at goodwill, I’m going to be miserable. If I wear things that don’t  fit me anymore, like fear or resentment, my heart will change, and not for the better. My heart will be clothed in rags, and I assure you, it will be ugly. 

The other day, I drove by a small house on a large plot of land. The front yard was absolutely littered with crappy stuff. Tons of old toys, garbage, bikes…you name it. Just junk. It all looked like it had weathered a rough winter, actually, maybe a few nasty winters. And I found myself thinking, that’s what my heart must look like to God when I gather up junk and let it just sit there. None of that stuff belonged in the yard. Much of it belonged in the garbage, but some of it could have been recycled at goodwill. Instead, it was all wasted.

heartGod has promised me, and all who love him, that He will actually create meaning out of the crap. All of it. I know in my heart, despite the circumstances that still swirl in a vortex around me, “…in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28). God doesn’t just take the junk we bring him and forget about it. He creates out of it a purpose for His good and for ours. I rest in that. I believe that. So, I’m going to “be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14) Timothy Keller, author of the book “Jesus the King” describes how our journey with God is not always clear and is scary in that it is uncertain to us. Keller writes, “Jesus says, ‘Follow me. I’m going to take you on a journey, and I don’t want you to turn to the left or to the right. I want you to put me first; I want you to keep trusting me; to stick with me, not turn back, not give up, turn to me in all the disappointments and injustices that will happen to you. I’m going to take you places that will make you say, ‘Why in the world are you taking me there?’ Even then, I want you to trust me.” Hope called me to the cross. Trust guides my way there. I’m not here to write about how great things are now. They suck. As I wait for a rescue in the torrent, I’m peaceful as long as I hope – in God. In the meantime, Jesus beckons me to walk on the water, so that I can be refined. Sanctified.  I’m not Peter, and I bet I’m even more of a doubter than he was. But, here’s the thing. I don’t actually have the power to walk on water anyway. God gives me the strength to put one foot in front of the other. So, I keep trusting, moving, and resting in His hope.
What’s in your closets and drawers? Dirty laundry? Ripped jeans? Old toys? Regrets? Hurt? Ugly sweatshirts? Whatever you’ve got. Bag it up. Take it to Jesus. He knows it’s heavy. Lay it down.
He’ll recycle it for you.

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