Composting the Garbage of our Lives
What do you do with the failures of your life? What do you do with the bad things you have done or with the bad things that have come upon you? What do you do with the pains you have been through or the hurts others have inflicted on you?
I often kick myself. Sometimes I throw myself a pity party. Other times I harbor resentments.
But my self-kicking and my pity parties and my harbored resentments have never done any good for me or for anyone else.
Fortunately, some who are wiser than I offer better counsel.
Peter Scazzero points out, “John Milton in Paradise Lost compares the evil of history to a compost pile—a mixture of decaying substances such as animal excrement, vegetable and fruit peels, potato skins, egg shells, dead leaves, and banana peels. If you cover it with dirt, after some time it smells wonderful. The soil has become a rich, natural fertilizer and is tremendous for growing fruit and vegetables—but you have to be willing to wait, in some cases, years. Milton’s point is that the worst events of human history that we cannot understand…are only compost in God’s wonderful eternal plan. Out of the greatest evil, the death of Jesus, came the greatest good. God transforms evil into good without diminishing the awfulness of the evil.”
If nature can turn the garbage of a compost pile into life-nurturing fertilizer, and if God can turn even the evils of history into good (and the evil of Jesus’ death into our forgiveness and eternal life), cannot God do the same with the failures and the pains of our lives?
David Seamands adds, “His ultimate design is to take everything that has ever happened in our lives and turn it to God’s purposes for good. Everything? Some of you are thinking of some unspeakably evil and painful things which either you, or someone else, meant for evil. Things which have left you damaged and crippled in some way—physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or relationally. Some wrongs which could only be called garbage. Is God able to even use such things as grist for His mill and turn them for human good and His glory?”
The answer is yes! Romans 8:28 promises us that God is in the business of constantly turning the bad things in our lives into good: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”
As I contemplated the analogy of bad things in our lives becoming compost out of which God can grow something good, I did some research on what is needed for effective composting. The research stressed the necessity of giving the garbage a sufficient supply of air. Composting cannot happen void of air. That got me thinking about a vital ingredient for the “composting” of the garbage that has happened in my life. I need to bring a sufficient supply of air to the garbage of my past. The way we supply air to a compost pile is by turning it over. The way we do this spiritually is by turning the junk of our lives over to God. This happens through prayers of confession, and it happens through prayers of lament (crying our pain to God). It doesn’t happen when we stuff down the sins or pains of our lives, living in denial. It happens when we dig down and turn it over, bringing it genuinely to God.
Perhaps I need to be more active about the composting of the garbage in my life.