“Have you already left?” Stacia called me as I was pulling out of our neighborhood.
“Yep – but I can go back if you forgot something.”
“I threw away the key.”
I was sure this was code for some clandestine operation that few knew of, and no one dared speak of openly, like “We’ve got the football,” or “The package has been delivered,” or the ever-so-proverbial “The EAGLE has Landed!” Yet for that ominous phrase, “I threw away the key,” I could find no meaning without my secret agent decoder ring, I guess, so in my haste getting out of the house, I eloquently and ever-so-subtly asked, “uh…What?”
She explained, “I thought it was an old key from the old lock to our previous neighborhood gate, but now I’m afraid we might need it, but I threw it in the trash, and it’s going to get picked-up today!” She sounded so sorry and helpless and desperate. She hated asking, but not as much as I hated returning to dig through our curbside trash bin!
So… you can imagine the scene: I slowly turn the car around, thinking, “Am I really going to do this?” and begin praying that the key somehow floats to the top of a week’s worth of trash, now all piled together into one big mess from the last several days, waiting for our “refuse relocation specialists” to bring their truck by for collection.
But no such magic happened. I was elbow deep in week-old banana peels, left-overs, tissues, and all manner of indescribably repugnant waste that I will spare you descriptions of.
As I winced with each movement of trash from one container to another, two thoughts occurred to me that God probably intended as a very necessary distraction from the task at hand:
- This is what Paul had in mind when he said, “I count it all (all that he ever could accomplish – and HAD accomplished – apart from Christ) as filthy rags/refuse compared to the riches of knowing Christ.” In other words, the very best I could ever dream of doing – even better than I could ever dream of doing – is more repulsive than this very task!
- This is how most of us live our lives: By default, we dig through trash (the stuff of the world) like it is worth our time, energy, talent, and other resources. We somehow live a life digging through ick, thinking it perfume. We pursue the things of this world that not only will all go up in smoke one day, but are too base for children of the King to be living in, pursuing, and trying to draw life from. It struck me that living for myself and worldly pursuits – even “good” ones – is the equivalent of life in the trash heap, and wanting even more.
So – I did eventually find the key – physically speaking, it was on the very bottom of the bag, hiding under the very last piece of muck I removed. Allegorically, I found the key as well – it’s in another of my favorite passages from Colossians 3…
- 1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
I think the reason it’s so hard for us NOT to live for the trash, is NOT because we always value worldly things, and live in fleshly emotion SO MUCH… though that’s part of it. I think we live for the trash so often because we forget what we have – and the value of it – in Christ. That’s why Paul isn’t just saying Christ is seated with God; He’s saying SET YOUR HEART where Christ is seated with God. He didn’t just say you died and your life is hidden with Christ; he said SET YOUR MIND where your life is hidden with Christ. If our Life is Christ, He is not found in worldly pursuit. Our Life is exalted; our Life is relational; our Life is perfected; our Life is transcendent and transforming… IN CHRIST, with God, above. But we must set our mental and emotional compass on the True North of Christ as our Life, or we will continue to find ourselves looking for our treasure in the trash.
Anyway… I found the key both materially and metaphorically, but I can’t quite bring myself to ask if the key I dug out of the trash was really necessary or useful in any way…. I’m better not knowing.
Question (share your answers in the comments): “Where do you or others you know sometimes place your hope in (what you can do for yourself or even for God) instead of all He’s done for you and in you by grace?”