A Story of Redemption: My Secret Love for Garbage

It started off, just a bunch of garbage. Literally. I stared down trash heaps and recycling bins and meditated. I prayed in salvage yards and next to garbage bins and even trash cans. And when I did, something welled up in my throat, something erupted from down deep in my belly; a fire shot up in my bones like the prophet and I knew I couldn't help but do something. I had to act.

Create. Re-create. Renew. Recycle. Reclaim. Restore. Redeem.

I know it sounds strange, but I fell in love with garbage. Salvage. Scraps. Leftovers. Found objects. Anything that anyone decided was dispensable and disposable, I wanted. I needed. I treasured.

I'm not sure when I started doing this; when God started doing this to me. I suppose I started young.

As a little girl I witnessed my father haul large metal scraps from the local dump, and began a process of burnishing, banging, bending, and building. And then these once slabs of steel and twisted rods and innards of long-abandoned cars- they became new creations. New creatures. Life-size sculptures that brought delight to my young eyes. In the words of C.S. Lewis, my imagination was "baptized" and I've never been quite right since.

For years I stuffed my salvaging urges, thinking them silly, frivolous, just one big waste. But as I sought what Parker Palmer calls "the hidden wholeness," I knew I needed to recognize my desire, name it, and somehow integrate it into my life. Into my relationships. Into my ministry with college students.

And then, it happened. One day something happened when I was staring, meditating and praying, on garbage. It was as if God's Spirit tapped me on the shoulder and winked. And then it became so obvious. All this garbage. All this junk. All this longing to take that which is deemed unworthy -- this was Good News -- really, really, good news. This was Gospel. All my longings for reclaiming and repurposing was a way to invite others into God's Story; the Story that is all about a God who is really into garbage. Maybe even more than me.

I started to share my secret love for garbage. With friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, church members and students. And together we began to salvage together and rebuild broken things.

We talked about how God loves leftovers and lost causes. We read ancient stories about holy tribes jammed packed with rejects and losers. We heard lots of little stories in God's Big Story about broken things and broken hearts and broken relationships and broken families.

And the students began to bring in their own garbage. And we pasted and patched and glued and painted and stitched and sewed. And over time, as we brought all of our broken things to one another, we created a new creation -- a large, multi-media mosaic which leans in my office today.

And with every new visitor who stumbles into my office, the question is asked of the mosaic, "What is that all about?" And in response, I begin to share The Old Story. The Story that tells of a God who isn't afraid to get dirty and grubby; a God who longs to enter into our cracks and mess and heal us and all of creation. The Story of Recreation and Redemption and Hope and Restoration.

And when snarky cynics and critics humpf and say, "Sounds like a bunch of garbage, to me." I just smile and say, "Yes. You are absolutely right."

Click through the slideshow to see beautiful works of art created from garbage: