As a student at UCLA I worked with a guy named Hal Lindsey. Through his influence I went to Dallas Seminary two years, then finished at Luther Seminary. At Dallas I was given the answers; at Luther I got the questions, but they didn’t match, and I struggled emotionally. Fears replaced confidence. At times I thought I was going crazy.
I attempted to get close to fellow students, but they rode on a different track. While at a reception, I was introduced to a young pastor they all considered cool. He said to me in front of them, “I know you. You’re the good basketball player—and a little weird.” They laughed–I died inside. Someone had just exposed me. Had I not been operating at such a fragile level, I might have responded, “Hey Pardner, I am weirder than you think.” But because I heard what I thought might be truth, I couldn’t manage a response.
Garbage is waste material. People don’t store smelly garbage, they toss it. But even garbage can be used productively. Think compost.Some people enjoy collecting garbage, then dumping it on others. I had a load dumped on me that night. So have you. It doesn’t feel good, but the good news is that garbage can serve a good purpose.
The apostle Paul had a compost pile. He wrote the strangest thing: “I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10). I don’t know many people who enjoy insults. But Paul found that when insults came his way, it made him go low. And grace is found in the lowlands. I lacked the maturity as a seminary student to know how to handle garbage. I just internalized it. Years later I realized that I needed to extract the smelly stuff through forgiveness.
Garbage in the soul festers. Most people don’t possess compost piles, but those who do also have beautiful flowers and fruit growing out of their lives. Rather than being victimized by garbage, they know where to put it. Those who own compost piles know that
- God doesn’t waste anything
- God uses even criticism to accomplish His purposes
- Maturity means overcoming evil with good
Reacting to people who dump garbage on us means that the garbage makes its way into our souls rather than onto the compost pile. Responding to God enables us to put the garbage where it belongs. The difference between reacting and responding is about ten seconds, long enough to offer up a quick prayer and take deliberate action.
Here are two scriptures to help dispose of garbage:
“Now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips” (Col. 3:8). “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:13).
Forgiveness does not mean that people didn’t dump on us. It does not mean that we let them off the hook by saying that they didn’t hurt us. It does mean that we turn them over to the love and justice of God rather than trying to punish them by staying angry. Do you have a compost pile? If so, you are a good gardener, and the fertilizer is developing fruit in your life. Garbage in the heart poisons us. Garbage properly used brings forth a rich garden.