While driving to Massachusetts last weekend, one of the guys with whom I was travelling remarked on the size of a large hill alongside Interstate 90. “That’s an old landfill site,” remarked another. “You can tell because there are pipes sticking up out of the ground all over the hill.”
Those pipes served two purposes: to allow oxygen in and to let methane out. Without that process, the breakdown that is intended to occur in a landfill site that’s been covered over with grass couldn’t take place.
Garbage is a big deal. If you’re not sure about that, ask residents of Toronto, who are under the threat of another strike, which could impede the collection of their trash, and see it piled up in parking lots and outdoor rinks, as happened a couple of summers ago.
Anyone who drives on Highway 401 understands that garbage is a big deal. Truck after truck of it is sent barreling down the 401 every day, to meet its final resting place in the state of Michigan. We Ontarians produce an awful lot of waste.
I wonder, though, how much of that is really necessary? It would be possible, but not altogether practical, to avoid putting garbage to the street at all. But it would be quite impossible to avoid producing any garbage, period. We are, after all, consumers.
Some people, I fear, may see their role as consumers as more of an holy calling than a necessary evil. While I am neither a pack-rat nor a hoarder, I am a bit reluctant to throw something away if I think it will have some good use. (The difference, I think, may happen at the purchasing end.) And with organizations that collect used clothing and even used electronics for various noble purposes, not to mention the ubiquitous nature of yard sales (three seasons of the year), there is a great deal of recycling that can take place, even before the blue box gets used.
Part of the necessity for such organizations and sales comes about as a result of our society having transformed itself into a throwaway society. Once something is no longer useful, or cool, we simply toss it aside. There are some folks who even do that with friends – other people – who cease to be ‘useful’ to them. Sad, isn’t it?
In my devotions the other day, I read a most interesting statement from author Yushi Nomura, who wrote this in his book Desert Wisdom: Sayings From The Desert Fathers (p. 11):
Abba Mios was asked by a soldier whether God would forgive a sinner. After instructing him at some length, the old man asked him: Tell me, my dear, if your cloak were torn, would you throw it away? Oh, no! he replied, I would mend it and wear it again. The old man said to him: Well, if you care for your cloak, will not God show mercy to his own creature?
I think this may hit the nail on the head when it comes to why our society has such a difficult time grasping God’s grace. Because we are prone to tossing things (and, sometimes, people) aside, we create a picture of God that is rather like us, and we assume that God would toss us aside, too.
Abba Mios, one of the early Christians who lived austerely in the desert to be closer to God, had a good point when he asked if the soldier would throw away his cloak just because it was ripped. The soldier rightly answered that he’d fix it and keep wearing it. (After all, there was no Quartermaster Store to gain a replacement!) That’s why it made so much sense for Abba Mios to remind the soldier that God cares for us more than we care for our stuff…much more.
Jesus said, “Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!” (Luke 12.23-24, NIV).
Thank Goodness we don’t serve a Throwaway God!