One of my students was in a dilemma as to what to do for her Narrative Speech. Her part-time job at college consisted of help in the maintenance department. It was while she was working, emptying trash cans, when she remembered the rebuke of a former high school teacher, “If you don’t straighten up your life, you’re going to end up being a trash collector!” The irony of her situation gave her the impetus for her speech…
An art major, she recalled her senior high school project. She had constructed a mural consisting of literal pieces of “trash,” discarded items that no one had further need of. Yet in the middle of her display, she fashioned the semblance of a cross. The message was subtle, yet powerful: Jesus stands in the middle of the broken, cast away pieces of our lives to create something beautiful. She told the story—her story—of how God had used her to reach out to the “discarded people” in her school. She befriended those whom others avoided. She embraced the lonely, the unpopular, the rejected. Like the cross on her mural, she offered hope in the midst of turmoil, directing lives littered with the debris of pain to the love of God.
Not many of us have the talent to artistically display God’s call in our lives as my student Stephanie. But I think most of us have encountered the blight of unwantedness…in the eyes of a teenage girl begging for her father’s affection, in the confused look of the elderly, when no longer deemed useful in our youth-driven culture, in the daze of people who have been “thrown under the bus” by one-time confidants seeking their own advancement. Trails of heartbreak disfigure and stain our landscape.
But we, as Christians, carry good news. The Holy Spirit living in us can mend broken lives, heal devastating wounds and bring light to dark corners. We have been commissioned by our Redeemer to be his “trash collectors” on the earth. To let people know how he has transformed our rubbish to make us his masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10) and reveal how he will do the same for them.
Can anything good come out of Nazareth? Iran? China? Venezuela? Is there anything that can be salvaged in New York City? Washington DC? Lancaster, PA? Can restoration come from lives torn by addiction, abuse and poverty?
My student’s artwork reminds me God says Yes!