For most Austinites recycling is a habit reinforced by the larger blue recycling bin and smaller trash bin provided by the city. It’s something I participate in, but I’m still very disconnected from it. I put it in the bins, roll it out to the curb and never think about the items again. Sure I try and buy products made from recycled goods, so I’m a little more connected than to the actual trash. Usually I have no direct connection to the items I personally give up for recycling (except for the wine bottle wind chime I made). These things are gone, completely lost, and forgotten about.
I act the same way about the things I’ve given up over the years for lent. I give them up and chunk them into the dumpster. Isn’t that what Paul is telling us in the Philippians reading? We are to treat the things we give up and lose for Christ as “rubbish.” For Christ he has given up the thought patterns and confidence in his own knowledge. What he once was is now rubbish, trash, cast aside.
Paul is brave to even admit the rubbish he’s thrown out. Once I break a terrible habit, it’s easier for me to pretend I never did it in the first place, than to share my dirty secrets with others. I sure don’t want someone going through my trash (literally or figuratively), seeing the choices I’ve made and learning what my weaknesses are. It’s his courageous vulnerability that gives me a new perspective on the things I choose to give up.
Paul reveals his rubbish not just as actions and thinking but as his whole way of being, who he was. The things I choose to give up aren’t separate from me. As much as I would like to compartmentalize my existence I am wholly me; my thoughts, experiences, actions, and body all make up who I am.
Paul speaks about his past existence as trash openly not because he has tossed it in the bin and walked away, but because he has experienced the process of making the trash into something new.
His rubbish is a lot more like the things we put in our big blue recycling bins. What we give up is transformed into who we are today. Our past experiences and perspectives are recycled into our present. Sam pointed out on the Ash Wednesday post, “God is always re-creating.” The phrase that marked the beginning of our Lenten journey “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return,” is not just a reminder of our mortality but a call to recycle.
Paul takes his blue bin farther than the curb, though. He reminds us that when we take out the trash we don’t just gain Christ but we are found inhim. We do not count as loss our old ways of thinking and actions so that we can possess God, but we present ourselves to be transformed in God. When we realize we are putting ourselves (not just bad habits) in the recycling dumpster, we become a bit more active in the recycling process. Christ, the embodied call of God, invites us to become renewed in each moment. This is the invitation to become like Christ, to share in the sufferings and resurrection. To be co-re-creators with God we have to be present past the curb, we have to connect with the rubbish we try so hard to disconnect from.
How can you put your whole self in the big blue bin?