As we were playing four square, our new late night tradition (I have awesome friends), one of my friends motioned to the dumpster in the abandoned parking lot.
“That’s where we put the books.” He said, casually remembering his work in the library from the week.
“What?!” I exclaimed. They just threw the books away? Faking bravado, I took off to save the books. I got to the dumpster and climbed up the dirty blue side. I was still doubtful. Would there really be books just lying in a dumpster? Books abounded; there were enough to fill a small library.
Logic and reason kept me on the edge of the dumpster for a few moments. What if I slipped? What if I got my nice white shirt dirty? What if I went in and couldn’t get back out? What if I became trapped in the dumpster and all my friends left me? But those books beckoned me.
Those books were soggy. It has been a rainy week. I’m sure the books weren’t actually worth saving, but by the time I was in, I had a mission. And I was beyond intrigued.
There was an entire encyclopedia set. Lots of books about social problems. “Red Wine First.” And my favorite, a German book signed in 1926 and written by Hans Grimm.
It was beautiful and tragic.
This has been a difficult week. Last year taught me that loving and serving can sometimes hurt. As I’ve been slaughtered by the hurt of young friends, innocent hurting children, I relearned the lesson this week. It’s almost as if I fell into a dumpster.
It is dark and murky and I’m treading uneven ground. I’m scared. What if I’m not saying the right things? What if healing won’t come? What if I become trapped in the sadness and I lose my way? Deep in the dark, fears arise. I’m afraid that everyone, including myself, will realize that this isn’t me. That my bravado is fake. That I don’t have the courage to pull the kids I love out of the dark. The world has rejected them, thrown them away.
But I know these kids are worth saving because God said they were with his death on the cross. And I know that it’s not my job to pull them out. That joy belongs to Jesus; he is the only one who can truly save them.
As I sorted through the books in the dumpster, I wasn’t alone. Friends watched me from the edge, shining the light on me. They pointed me toward the best book treasures. They held the books that I pulled out. Then, they helped me out of the dumpster and carried my books (and my keys and discarded lacey sweater) across the parking lot. When we returned to the soft glow of the far off street lamp, more friends were waiting. They marveled at the books. Three sweet friends left the game of four square to carefully look at each book. They treated them as delicately as they would treat books in a museum.
When the rain began to fall in earnest, my friends protected the books. They carried them safely inside, as if these books hadn’t spent many rainy nights in an open dumpster.
Loving these hurting kids is difficult. It’s an ache in the corner of my heart, knowing those I cherish are hurting and cannot tell me how. It’s a constant burn in the back of my throat as I realize they’ve been protecting me by keeping silent. It’s the sad acceptance that I cannot be enough for them, that tragedy no one should endure is coming.
Loving is difficult, but I’m not in it alone. A community of strangers gathered around me, sending me books and resources. Prayers come from my family. And these same friends who indulge me while I dumpster dive for discarded books are there, hearing and helping and hurting with me. There’s a cloud of witnesses shining the light, treasuring these friends with me.
But none of this compares to God’s unending love. He dove much deeper to save me. When I was worth nothing more than trash, fit for the dumpster, He humbled himself. He became dirty with the guilt, fear, and pride of all humanity. And in his death and resurrection, he washed it all clean. It is by this love that I live. It is only by this love that I can love my hurting friends.
“And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”