The idea of composting has intrigued me for years. As a kid, I remember the five gallon bucket on my gram’s side porch to which she was always adding egg shells, potato peels and coffee grounds. It stunk and was often in danger of being overturned and raided by pesky raccoons. But her efforts were rewarded when the bucket reached capacity and she dumped it in the corner of her garden, mixing it in with decaying leaves and grass clippings to enrich the soil. Gardeners often refer to compost as black gold, and if you garden, you know there’s nothing like rich, black dirt.
For those of you un-gardeners who may be reading, composting is basically nature’s way of recycling decomposing organic material. Composting is what happens naturally in the woods, for example, where fallen leaves and dead plants are consumed back into the soil, providing rich nutrients for future growing seasons. Backyard composting allows us to accelerate this natural life cycle and use it to our advantage in our gardens. Starting a compost pile requires just a few things: a container of sorts, organic materials and air. Hence the yogurt container on my counter full of kitchen scraps; hence the big black plastic bin behind my shed full of said scraps, grass clippings and dead leaves.
Intrigued as I am with the parallels between life and gardening, lately I’ve been wondering if composting does not relate more closely to life. How many of our life experiences that we may view as garbage actually have great organic value? Garbage stinks – and so do some of our life experiences. Relational failures, poor decisions, unwise choices – we all have some garbage in our lives. But I believe God does not waste anything, and in his providence, I believe he wants to incorporate these experiences into our future growth. We need not turn our back on them.
What if, instead of putting our past – anything from yesterday’s untimely words to decades old choices and pains – out for the garbage pickup, we were able take a closer look at things. What if we could give ourselves an appropriate distance from these experiences, trusting God to turn them under gently, enfolding them into his grace? What might God be able to bring forth from what we consider only fit for the landfill?
Last year for my birthday, my sweet friend gifted me with (among other things) the beautiful reminder that “God returns our wasted years,” and that NOTHING is ever wasted in God’s kingdom. I need that reminder often.
I think God is definitely in the composting business. Don’t you agree?