I was minding my own business when BAM! God did it again. He has an uncanny way of taking truth revealed in Scripture and putting flesh to it. From the dry bones in Ezekiel’s vision and Jesus Christ’s incarnation, to a recent garbage collection day, God teaches us in many ways.
I remember it like it was only two weeks ago. A warm summer Thursday had turned to evening, and with it plans for the next day were being hatched. Friday is pickup day for garbage, recycling, and yard debris; however, this was no ordinary Friday—it was July 4th. As you will recall, this day marks the Declaration of Independence from the monarchist regime known as Great (though not to us at the time) Britain and its head, King George III. Well, I don’t need to tell you what happened after our forefathers issued this most famous proclamation (hint: we won).
This holiday in remembrance of such an historic, world-changing event could arguably be the most important uniquely American holiday on all of our calendars. Though some may beg to differ, I will assume you’re agreeable and move on.
You see, I was abiding in Oregon for a few days at my mother’s place, and when I am in town I take care of a few household chores, such as setting out the curbside pickup items. This particular evening my mom and I had a conversation that went something like this: “Remember, trash gets picked up tomorrow.” “Does recycling go out tomorrow?” At that time I looked at the schedule on the door that indicated this was in fact a recycling waste pickup week. “Wait, tomorrow is the Fourth of July. They’re not coming ‘til Saturday.” “Today is Thursday; this is the day I put my garbage cans out.” “There is no way they’re going to be working tomorrow, on a holiday, one of the most important American holidays. If they work tomorrow, when would they ever get a day off? It just doesn’t make any sense. No, they’re not coming tomorrow.”
Now, I had already placed the garbage can out and had no desire to undo work only to do it again the next day, so I left it curbside. The recycling can was full and by the house, and the yard debris can I left empty as I planned to fill it on Friday for the day-late Saturday pickup.
“I need you to trust me,” I said. “This will be a good exercise for you to relax and know that it will all work out.” I went to sleep, confident that my plan was well thought through. And then it happened. I awoke with a start. There have been less than half a dozen such awakenings in my life, the last which I remember having occurred on September 11th, 2001.
What did I hear, but the sound of moving parts and engines revving. “What!?! This can’t be! They’re not supposed to be here!” My mind raced from thought to thought. My body leapt from sleep and propelled me toward the door to confirm my fear. My eyes darted from can to can around the cul-de-sac desperately trying to determine what had already taken place and what I could still salvage. Was there time? Did they only pick up the trash which was curbside already? Could I still get the other two cans out? I don’t need to tell you that I was wearing less than the standard uniform for such public activity, and I imagine my rapid and confused motions may have been enough to elicit comparison to a Charlie Chaplin film.
I dashed to the yard debris can, jerking it into motion and around the corner to a small pile of arborvitae trimmings. In they went, and out it went to the curb as the sound of trucks broadcast their presence throughout the neighborhood. Through foggy eyes and an even foggier mind I quickly decided to grab the trimmers and head out back to the plum tree. A few hasty slices later I could see through the chain-link fence and across the street the truck against which I raced. My armload of branches jostling, I hustled to the can. No truck in sight. I made my way back toward the plum tree, but it was not to be. Like a hawk upon a field mouse, that truck and its driver swept in and took away what little I had assembled. The recycling waste, it turned out, would have to wait for another two weeks.
I realized somewhat later that morning what really happened. You might see these events as nothing but a little arrogance followed by an opportunity to eat a little crow over breakfast, but you’d be missing something, and so had I. On the pickup schedule, posted carefully on the door, was all I had needed. It was the same schedule I had used to determine this was the week for recycling. At the bottom of that printed page were the words: “Drivers work all weekdays except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.”
Right there: everything I needed. I had used careful reasoning with all the information I had, as logically as I could. I had no misgivings. I was certain I was right. I counted any other idea as not worth the time to consider it. But in the end my sincerely held belief was simply wrong. The truth was knowable and it had been made available to me in writing and through another person. I had even read the very document containing the information I needed, but paying attention only to the parts I wanted.
Just like this anecdote illustrates, truth is knowable, and this, through the Bible, God’s Word. It is there in writing, and echoed through the lives and words of believers around us. We must seek out the very truth of God in the words of life He has given us. Our own thoughts, however carefully crafted, are not enough. Recall what God has said: “’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
As I had referenced the schedule for pickup, but had missed a crucial aspect of it, so too is it possible to read the Scriptures and miss its most vital parts. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful …” (2 Timothy 3:16). Jesus, while recorded as praying for the disciples in John 17, says, “Sanctify them in the truth; Thy Word is truth.” This is profound in itself, but when strengthened by other parts of Scripture (see John 1:1 and 14:6) it brings great depth of understanding and makes visible the truth in flesh.