Garbage Trucks and Redemption

“Remember that there is a meaning beyond absurdity. Be sure that every little deed counts,that every word has power. Never forget that you can still do your share to redeem the world in spite of all absurdities and frustrations and disappointments.”  Abraham Joshua Heschel

What does redemption look like?  We were talking about this at church one night and I was in a prayer group with a guy who was living at the shelter where our church meets.  And our priest asked, “What do you do in your work that is part of the redemption of the world, for God’s purposes?”  And this guy said, “Well, I clean the toilets in one of the DC city parks… and I think that cleaning up all that crap is probably something that the visitors appreciate, and so I think I’m redeeming something.”  Amen!

Maybe this blue-ribbon-winning entry in the “make something beautiful with a toilet” contest at my county’s fair will serve to illustrate my point:


If only all of us (regardless of the sophistication or simplicity of our work) could have such a vision of our part in redemption, we would all find more meaning in our work and more willingness to have at it on any given day.  And add to that an understanding of Biblical theology, and the mandate that we each get to do our part to see to it that “thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven,” and we should feel downright gleeful that we’re part of redemption.  We’re present-tense workers for the “new heavens and earth” which Scripture promises.

I’m grieving David Foster Wallace’s death at 46 from suicide.  Genius.  Brilliant.  Hysterical.  Creative.  Imaginative.  If he could have only imagined redemption for whatever was intolerable.  I ache for redemption in all things.  We don’t always see it here on earth.  That stinks.

Anytime flowers stubbornly push through concrete, alleyways in slums have murals painted on them, women from the inner city take their grandchildren out to pick up litter, garbage trucks make their appointed rounds… redemption is happening.

When I read in the Washington Post that Mildred Muhammad, wife of the DC sniper of 2002, is now speaking out to help domestic abuse victims and has worked hard to change her children’s future, I cheered for redemption.  I love what she’s doing:

The prophet Joel wrote, “He will redeem the years the locusts have eaten.”  We’ve got some chomped-up situations, don’t we?  Big old holes in them.

And my body and soul cry out for redemption, for seeing the “not yet,” the redeemed years.

So I believe that we will since God’s whole shtick is redemption.  And I wait, sometimes patiently, other times not.




~ by Cary on September 18, 2008.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: