It wasn’t the morning of my dreams. There I stood, one foot on top of the dumpster, the other shakily on the ladder. I am usually drinking my steaming latte, and spending some quiet time with God at this time, but this morning was a Different Kind of Morning. I accidentally threw away my retainer, and it would cost upwards of $300 to replace. I had better uses for that money. That’s a trip somewhere, a weeks wages. So I made plans for my first ever dumpster dive (at our deli), and that’s where I was found that morning.
Opening the lid was the hardest part. I wasn’t high enough to give it the swing power it needed to fall back. Trying to maintain equal amounts of balance and forward arm motion proved futile, and with despair I realized that I needed less balance and more arm motion. That left only one option. Fall in.
Now I’m a lover of beauty. I thrill and think poetry when I sit by the river with my book. Little spots of unexpected beauty don’t go unnoticed. I like to make my world a more attractive place.
Falling into a dumpster isn’t something I do regularly or mentally prepare for. But $300 is what it is and so as the heavy lid fell back, I fell in, with as much grace as I could muster, and with fervent prayers that our business neighbors weren’t looking out their windows.
I dug around, amid the dirty plates, the crusts of bread, the congealed bits of soup. My mom came, because my mom has a beautiful, sympathetic kind of heart, and because I learned the value of $300 from her.
It was gross. It was disgusting. I tried thinking spiritual thoughts such as “The God who sees the sparrow fall can surely direct me to my retainer.” and, “what a great testimony this would be if I find it.” It’s kinda hard to be spiritual in a smelly dumpster, I soon discovered.
I didn’t find it. So I made an appointment and thought about playing my waves app as they made the new impression, and pretend I was at the beach spending $300. I ended up getting hit with a big wave of kindness, when my good orthodontist team informed me there would be no charge. Humbly accepting bits of grace like that are harder for me than extending them. I managed a few wondrous “thank you’s”, and stumbled out in a daze.
I learned something in the dumpster.We try to rearrange the pain and the ugly in our lives to make it seem less terrible than it is both to ourselves and to others. There’s always a filter to make the picture brighter, to cover up the junk on the side, to make black and white the areas of color clash. The struggle isn’t trying to find the beauty, its struggling to be okay with the rawness of the mess.
Sometimes life is just ugly, and the moments painful. It’s okay to acknowledge those areas as well as the spots of beauty. I’d be as brave as to say it’s actually healthy. Sometimes those areas don’t need a filter or a redemptive hashtag. When Jesus looked into the cup of sorrows, He felt it for what it was. He didn’t imagine it away or pretend it was to be easy. He let Himself feel the awfulness, and he wept.
Running from the hard, the pain, the brokenness is a natural human reaction. Insulating ourselves from it all is our first instinct. “It’s not as bad as it seems”, is what we try to pretend, but the healing can’t come when we are in denial. A good cry, honesty with ourselves and the Healer, is where the relief is found.
“Joy and pain are flip sides of the same coin. If you succeed at insulating yourself against the one, you deny yourself the ability to experience the other.” -Kelly Grayson
The truth is, most of life usually happens between the dumpster and the river. Between the harshest pain and most intense beauty. Allowing yourself to experience both is to allow yourself to be most fully human in all the beautiful ways God designed us.
And I think I’m done dumpster-diving for awhile.