On Tuesday our church staff put aside our regular tasks to go pick up trash. No, it wasn’t glamorous. But I had been aghast at the huge amount of trash that had been thrown out of car windows defiling our fair city, and decided we could at least take care of the two roads leading to our church building. It was overcast and windy, which made our job a little less pleasant, but doing it together made it fun.

Walking about four miles of roadway on Cook and Riverside Roads, we filled approximately fifty large trash bags–that is, a full pickup bed and two trailers, which filled up an empty dumpster, and that’s not including the decomposing deer carcass. It was an unbelievable amount of trash.

Some observations we made:

1.Beer drinkers in our city are decidedly health conscious—almost all the bottles were lite beer, and Miller Lite seems to be on top.

2.The beer bottles outnumbered the soda cans 10-1. We decided this doesn’t mean ten times more beer than soda pop gets consumed in our city, but that beer drinkers are more likely to toss their trash out the window. We found a surprising amount of full, unopened bottles of beer—perhaps people are worried about getting caught with it in their cars?

3.Most of the paper trash is related to fast food.

4.There was very little other trash of any interest whatsoever.

5.All that bending, stretching, squatting, and hefting is far more exhausting than you would think.

I was excited to drive to work the next morning. I was anticipating an amazing difference. It did look much cleaner. It looked different to me, since I had been so aware and disgusted by the mess. But driving down Cook Road, I admitted to myself that the absence of trash is not something people notice. What gets noticed is TRASH. I was also quite indignant to notice the Hardee’s sack and two drink cups that had shown up overnight.

TRASH. It’s the ugly part of life, but admittedly, there’s a lot of it. There was far more laying there by the side of the road than we would have guessed. And there’s not much glory in picking it up. But I’m glad we did, even though it will re-accumulate, and need to be done again.

I’m a Christian, a follower of Jesus. Last Friday’s message at church asked the revealing question, “Why Do You Want to be a Christian?” That’s a great question—how we answer that in our own mind will greatly affect the quality of our Christian life. I want to be a Christian because I want to participate in God’s plan to redeem creation, and creation includes me. I recognize the world is full of trash—I not only want to go pick it up on the streets, but I want to get it out of my life and help others to get it out of theirs. So what we did was a prophetic declaration of what we’ve committed our lives as a church staff to.

We could have looked at the trash, condemned it, said, “That’s not my trash.” That’s what good Pharisees would do. Jesus joined the human race and gave himself up to the purpose of redeeming creation. I deal every day with trash in the lives of people who are in the process of being salvaged. Picking up beer bottles and paper was a bit of a break, but a reminder that what we do everyday is eternally valuable.