For the first time in my life I had to go to the city dump, to get rid of two broken down mattresses that neither donation centers nor the garbage collector would take.
The dump. Yikes.
Not only was there a line to get in, but I had to pay to get rid of my junk. And I had to drive for about two miles up a winding hill, in the middle of nowhere.
I finally reached the dump. It was remote, flat land all around it.
But as I got closer, the mound of ‘stuff’ got bigger and bigger, filling a hillside. Machines all around pushing the junk deeper into itself. Workers, mostly men, unloading truckloads of stuff to discard.
It was sad but somehow revelatory, in a few ways.
It made me think of all the junk in my life – not just my piles that need purging and organizing, but the emotional, spiritual — where do I dump it?
Jesus said, “Come to me all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). He also paid the eternal ‘fee’ to let us dump our junk on him and leave it behind. He’d take care of it and ease our burden and our pain, so that the past wouldn’t have to bind us forever. And as I saw, it’s not fun work. It’s draining and it smells. Our burdensome junk, our sin, our weaknesses — they smell.
I felt, literally, so much lighter when I left. So grateful. But it was also sad, that some people choose to remain in the dump, so to speak, remain in the worst choices, remain in the worst scenarios and worst attitudes. Some even prefer it so that they have something to complain about.
Yet as I drove away, passing the piles bigger than any I’d ever seen, I realized that redemption was there. Not only was there more active recycling than I’d ever seen (wood, greenery, paper, glass, metal) but it was heartening to know that many dumped items were being taken by others to use, or would be somehow recast and re-purposed, given new life. Just like we are, every single day, with God’s faithful forgiveness and healing, renewed by his hope and love.
Because of that strangely overwhelming feeling of grace I received there in the dump, I found myself interested in what I saw lying around everywhere. Everything in that dump had a story, somehow. Who had sat in that now-discarded chair? What’s its tale? Or that old sofa? Or that blue mattress – who slept on it? That pile of ruined woodshelves – what did they used to hold? Whose house were they in? So many stories were strewn across that dump site.
I couldn’t stop thinking even of my own history: here was my daughter’s old mattress, once pristine, where she slept and read her books, said her prayers and bounced on it with her neighborhood friends belting out “Everything is Awesome!” Now it was part of the pile, the past, the leave-behinds.
But it was okay. There was thankfully a new bed now, replaced under warranty: there would be new stories, new nighttime conversations to be had, new memories. We’d still remember the old one fondly, but it was time to move on. The purging was ultimately healthy, even if it had to involve a trip through the smelly, dirty and unexpected. Sometimes it’s only from such a place that we can truly appreciate the treasures of our life.