I teetered on the edge of the flooded, scum topped, drainage ditch. I stretched to reach the half full sport water bottle that was floating on it’s surface. As I teetered, I heard my college boy mumble something about “nematodes” and wondered if maybe this was a bad idea after all. I didn’t want to have to explain the nematodes under my nails to the nail tech, the scum stains would be bad enough.
“Can’t you get cholera from dirty water?” I heard the high school boy ask. Ignoring him, I sighed, and stood up with my slimey, nematode and scum covered prize. I dropped it into the half full garbage bag. “Scaring me won’t work guys- we’re filling these bags. ” I said in reply. It was Earthday and we were doing our part, or ELSE. They must have gotten the message, because they bent to pick up a broken cooler and an empty vodka bottle from the weeds.
“Mommy! Look! I found garbage! I made a difference!” Yelled my youngest, as he added a broken hub-cap to the garbage bag. At least someone was enjoying this project. He was living on the edge- (this was the closer to the road than he is normally allowed) and doing his part to care for our community. He could not have been happier. I on the other hand, was starting to feel overwhelmed and disgusted. Everywhere I looked- there was more garbage, much of it not even within reach. It would still be there when we left. To be honest- it would be hard to tell we’d ever been there, at all. I felt a knot of tension tighten between my shoulders. This was NOT what I’d had in mind.
“Why, exactly, do we have to clean up this mess, anyways? We didn’t MAKE it.” I heard mumbled from one teenager to another. I ignored them. But, I have to admit- although it had been my idea to do this, I was starting to wonder the same thing.
I walked across the road and bent to the edge of the ditch on the other side. I reached out to pluck a soggy (but thankfully, empty) cup from it’s equally murky, depths. I felt my foot slide on the muddy bank. I tottered in slow motion and (thankfully) fell backwards onto my backside. I had no desire to slurp nematode soup.
As I sat, mud soaking into my sweats, I caught my reflection in the scum topped and oil-slicked, ditch water. I looked awful. Not just dirty- but furious. I was furious that this was making very little difference, and furious that the older boys attitudes were crummy. (Not to mention my own.) I struggled to stand up without touching anything and I wondered how people do this everyday, for a living. “They get paid, to.” Was the answer that came to mind.
“I don’t.” said a small quiet voice, the one I recognize in my heart as either the voice of God or truth… For a moment, I though I’d lost it. Maybe it was contaminated ditch water fumes, or the nematodes, but I argued with the quiet voice: “I don’t recall a bible story about you picking up trash on Earthday.” I snarked. “I do it everyday, it’s called grace.” The voice countered.
I stopped snarking and felt my fury melt away. I hadn’t thought about it like that before.
Grace, is God getting ditch level and cleaning up disgusting messes that He did not make. When he extends grace- he somehow does it with love and forgiveness, not with disgust or frustration. Daily cleans up messes like my sin, which would fill ditch after ditch with worse things than soggy cups and nematodes. As the reality of His grace sunk in, I stood up and looked around.
“Thank you” I whispered, and finished filling the trash bags with tears in my eyes.
22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.