The man was decked out in worn work clothes, gloves and a broom. Moments earlier he parted ways with a younger co-worker who disappeared from sight, on his own quest to spiff up another section of the property.
With his back turned on his buddy, the older gentleman walked across the parking lot through an open security gate to the alley behind the strip mall.
Once in the alley he stopped abruptly, turning his head first left, then right. He did it once again before the assessment motion turned into a more decisive shaking, an emphatic sign of disbelief. Seeing nothing to clean, the man shrugged his shoulders before retreating from where he came.
The scene played out in mere seconds but I was struck by the imagery. Not long before the cleaning crew arrived six peeps from Narratives Church-and a new friend that is part of a volunteer team of community cleaners-attacked that very alley picking up cigarette butts, drink cups, needle covers, furniture carcasses and rain-drenched cardboard. Dozens of bottle caps were also strewn about, their bottles long ago redeemed, likely for a can of beer, rot-gut hard stuff or tobacco. In all, we gathered up 580 pounds of trash.
So, instead of the usual junk farm, the worker found a clean slate. From his reaction it was pretty clear he didn’t understand, as he’s likely faced a dump there on more than one occasion.
If his reaction sounds familiar, it should. How many times have we found-or created-a mess only to be amazed that the Lord has already cleaned it up?
The Bible shows us we are not alone. Throughout his New Testament letters, Paul frequently wrote about the fickleness of the flesh. In Romans 7:15-20, Paul famously bemoans his own actions:
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. (verse 15).
He also dives into the issue in his first letter to Timothy:
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. (Chapter 1, verses 15-16).
Through the mercy of the Lord, we are cleaned of the trash that keeps us shackled. And, as we pursue the steadfast journey of following, we can mirror that same mercy, pointing others to the powerful gospel of Redemption through Christ.
Pursuing with you,