"And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you," Joel 2:25
I like to swim and snorkel in the ocean. The underwater world is both beautiful and bountiful. Recently I went camping on the coast a few hours north of San Francisco. This was formerly the middle of logging country in Mendocino County, and here God taught me a lesson about Himself. In this small, coastal town, the lumber mill was on the cliffs directly above the ocean. It has been there for decades and is still a working mill. For a large portion of its existence, before the advent of environmental concerns, this lumber mill did what most industry did; it dumped its wastes in its own backyard. Garbage trucks drove to a parking lot at the side of the ocean cliff and dumped away. The refuge of years accumulated on the beach beneath.
For years now the ocean has washed over this dump, saltwater has eaten away at it and waves rolled upon it again and again. The beach is now called Glass Beach and it is beautiful both above and below the water. One random handful of beach is full of smoothed and polished pieces of glass, ceramic and aluminum. It’s like picking up a rainbow if the sun is shining; greens, blues, violets and brown, a wonder to the eye. The sea life is plentiful and families frolic looking at the life in the tide pools.
So, you ask where is the spiritual lesson here? Sounds like a memorable time but what is there to learn about God? The Bible says that God takes the sinner and makes a saint. He transforms the rotten into good, the vile into beauty and dust into riches. The Old Testament says God gives "...beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." The New Testament says, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." This is what it means to be ‘born again’.
Now I don’t know about you, but it seems pretty stupid to dump pollutants in your own backyard. Yet, consider the toxic waste of sin. Rehab centers are full, with a backlog of people trying to get in. The psychological drug industry has had another profitable year and there will be another proposition requesting funds for yet another prison, all because of the pollutants of the soul. The soul is the dump where all the lies of the life and hidden secrets accumulate, where all self-serving vices and crimes against others are left rotting. I do not wish to present the perspective, "Those nasty people over there are sure a walking dumpster." No, this ugly pollution is closer to home--consider your own backyard.
Each year at the Pismo Beach car show I am amazed at man’s ability to restore junk to new. God restores the soul. I despise taking a Saturday dump run to the landfill. It is stinky and I never go away from the place feeling clean. Yet God is able to take the refuse of humanity and rebuild and restore. He gives second chances. He does not despise getting up close and personal with human refuge.
When Christ walked the earth He touched the leper, the blind and the lame and healed them, so He is restoring lives today. The Bible says you can be born again. Just as God used the tumbling of the waves to beautify garbage and corrosive salt water to dissolve wastes, He uses time and troubles to awaken lives and transform lives to eternal values.
Coming to a low point in your life is a good thing when it lifts your spiritual gaze upward to God. It's like waking up in the morning and smelling the stench of the garbage of your life, then turning that garbage over to God and trusting His composting ability to raise roses out of your manure. As creation worked on the garbage and transformed it into a thing of beauty, God’s grace works in our lives to restore the soul and transform it from a dump to a treasure. This begins when we obey the prompting of the Holy Spirit and repent. Then we must stop dumping the garbage.
What is true treasure? Is it what the lottery winner gets, a passing pleasure, a successful job or family? The Bible says it is not something that can be found in a chest but rather a soul. A soul filled with peace and joy, a soul filled with self-sacrificial service and kindness, a soul not filled with criticism and prejudice but love and mercy. It is treasure only God can create; treasure that will be of His heavenly jewels shining in His eternal kingdom. If you think that this is not you, that you are far from this and will only to be part of a human landfill, let this remind you that God is turning ugly pollution into glorious treasure.