I remember climbing into a storage loft above my mom’s mammoth workshop, and spending an hour digging through boxes of my ancient childhood oddities. I kept every kind of junk imaginable: stuffed animals, art projects from the 4th grade, entire boxes of sports cards, attendance awards from middle school, farm stickers, a chocolate coin…random.
I remember that every item that ascended from my corrugated chest was once a treasure held close to the heart. Now, I roll my eyes while chanting, “…garbage… garbage… embarrassing… garbage… what is this?… more garbage…” There was definitely enjoyment in the nostalgia of some gems, like the 3-foot plastic alligator that I used to scare my mother with in our dimly lit hallway, but mostly, I was just counting garbage as I relayed the hilarious, and sometimes awkward, contents into a row of white garbage bags. At one point, the thespian in me began channeling Sesame Street’s The Count: “One old piece of garbage, Ah ah ah. Two old pieces of garbage, Ah ah ah. Three old…” At one time, all of these things mattered greatly and played important roles in my life, but they’re not important compared to what I have now.
Over the years, I’ve come to view my former self in the same way. I’ve used so many achievements, advantages, connections, and characteristics to define myself: gamer, athlete, honor roll student, stuntman, class clown, president, flirt, Cora’s boyfriend, Hawaiian, not a loser, multicultural, leader, college student, fashionable, a good guy, servant, …my list of masks is long.
But by some miracle, I was challenged to read the Bible through a debate with some Mormons friends about evolution, fiercely presented the gospel by people who cared for me and showed it, and turned my life over to Jesus, who died for me, in an empty church sanctuary on June 5th, 1999.
Since that time, somehow, my masks haven’t mattered. They still try to creep back into my life, but now I can sincerely and joyfully say that the masks that made the old me are garbage compared to knowing Jesus and being made free by Him alone.
I remember deciding to try to memorize a passage of the Bible that was longer than a verse. After a short search, I decided that nothing better described my feelings towards Christ or my hope for my life than the words of Philippians 3:7-12.
“7I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. 8Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.
10I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
12I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to [own] that perfection for which Christ Jesus first [owned] me.” (Philippians 3:7-12 NLT)
There is so much beauty in the world God has spoken into existence, and immeasurable worth in the people whom God has made in His image; yet all of it, all of them, and everything I am or claim to be, is less than Jesus. No, is “garbage” compared to Christ.
I do not say such words lightly because I revel in the winter sunrise, I cry at the tenderness of my children, I flutter at the touch of my wife, I roar myself raw as a coach and an athlete, and I wonder at both the size of the universe and the strength of a beetle. I would never bring down the value of such majesties because they scream the greatness of their Maker, but I will unequivocally bring Christ up.
I would bring Him far above and atop everything and crown Him King over all he has created for His glory. As the splendor of the full moon entirely vanishes beside the noonday sun, so too the importance of, well, anything else available in this life vanishes when placed beside Jesus, my King and Rescuer.
Daily life for me is a tight rope walk between enjoying with awe and gratitude all that I experience by sense and, at the same time, counting all of it as garbage compared to Christ who I experience by faith and the power of His Spirit at work in me.
So, here’s to counting “garbage”, and noticing that nothing, nothing, is better than Jesus.
My son wants you all to watch this video, right now: Counting Garbage Trucks
I just want you all to obey Jesus.