Trash or Treasure?
I once taught third grade in a Christian School. At the beginning of my second year, a scruffy boy, by the name of Nick shuffled into my classroom. His grin warmed my heart, but his behaviors didn’t. He hadn’t fit into the public school senerio, and his family had hit rough places; So, to Christian School he came. I have this thing for underdogs though. Broken families, broken kids, new kid on the block not fitting in, these things always hit home. So, Nick and I began to get to know one another, and I became his cheerleader.
The last day of school, before Christmas break, the children all filed into the classroom holding their Christmas treasures to give their teacher. Some proudly presented them like “We Three Kings”, others shly place it in my hands, and some shove it in front of me with indifference because mom made them. Standing in my door, waiting for my last student to push the glass door to the building open, I watched as Nick made a dash down the hall, with a hugh grin painted across his face, his present clutched by both sweaty hands.
Halfway to me, his feet tangled beneath him. Time suspended as he tumbled to the floor in a broken, dejected mess. His gift shattered between his fingers as it slammed against the tiled floor. But far worse the shattered heart of a young boy lay at my feet. Bending over I scooped the present up. “Nick, are you hurt? Can you get up, honey?”. He just nodded his head, unable to speak as hot tears rolls down his flushed cheeks. The glass Santa holding a bag of candy was in pieces in my hands. “Nick, thank you for the gift. It’s beautiful. I will glue this back together, and Nick I will keep it forever. Thank you so much!” A small glimmer of gratitude began to peek through Nick’s eyes. He slowly got up and hugged me.
Twenty some years later, I find myself back in the classroom, part time. At the staff Christmas party, I brought a gift to exchange that I had thoughtfully picked out knowing that the value was at least double what it appeared. I put it in a plain envelope with a ribbon and placed it in the middle of the pile. As the teachers one by one picked the gifts not knowing their contents, they grabbed the one’s daintly decorated. My plain gift lay on the floor til the last. The teacher who got it eagerly opened it, but as she looked at it, she didn’t recognize the value or know the boutique, so a look of scorn crossed her face. What had been my treasure had now become her trash. Embarrassment filled me and my cheeks grew hot.
My mind flashed back to Nick and my little glued together Santa that often has sat in my kitchen these past twenty years. His trash had become my treasure. His embarrassment had eased away into pleasure knowing he had pleased me. I then thought of a baby wrapped in a manger.
The creator of the universe wrapped the greatest treasure, the most precious present to mankind in rags and placed him in the simple, frail arms of poor girl at a time of vicious dictatorship. Most didn’t recognize the value of the gift. They scorned him. They saw the treasure of heaven as trash. Few looked hard enough, with an open heart to see what truly was cuddled in Mary’s arms. And they missed him. They missed the savior of the world. But the shepherds, the lowest class of the low, didn’t miss him.
God does things in such upside down ways. He knew His son would be rejected, a man of sorrows, from whom men would turn their faces away. Isaiah, hundreds of years before Jesus, prophesied it would be so. He chooses the lowest of the low, the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. I find that true today.
He often takes the least of these, the lowest of the low, and somehow, if they will let Him, makes beautiful masterpieces out of their lives. He’s really good at that.
So, I find myself looking for Him in places many wouldn’t think to look. In the face of the new kid on the block, or the orphan, or the homeless, or the single mom, or the elderly woman… Do you see trash or treasure? Do you recognize the mark of Jesus, maybe where others won’t? Oh, I’ve been guilty of the scornful look too. But I know how broken I’ve been, and what He’s done in me. Maybe that’s why I look for Him in broken places, because He is there.
My hope is you will take time with an open heart to see Him in unexpected places this season. He loves hiding treasure in what most see as trash.