Upcycling: the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality.
Our garage is a wasteland of Stuff We Don’t Want To Throw Out, But Which Is Too Junky For the House. It is also a holding area for Trash I Must Take To the Dump. For an item to be consigned to the garage, it has to be pretty pathetic – worse, for example, than the end table I trash picked in 1999 that still resides in my living room.
This garage, weirdly, is my oldest’s favorite room in the house. She spends hours going through the junk and transforming it, with a little spray paint and hot glue, into incredibly intricate props for the Cosplays she loves. She made the most incredible suit of armor (with moveable parts!) with some odds and ends she found languishing in there.
So, what seemed past its prime and destined for the junk heap finds new life, through the vision, creativity, and determination of my daughter. Hipsters call this “upcycling.” I am normally not a fan of anything Hipster, being unable to grow a mountain man beard or pull off the Skinny Jean look. But I like this Upcycling thing.
I remember how 25 years ago, in my college years, I was so embarrassed by what was inside of me that I couldn’t bring myself to look someone in the eye and have a conversation, afraid that they would see what a mutant I was. Crashing and burning in my college studies, I gathered the courage to open up to a professor about my inner turmoil, and he responded, “I don’t know what’s wrong with you, but you have more problems than anyone I’ve ever met. You need to get some help.” I slunk away and cut his class for the rest of the semester. I got a D, effectively ending my studies in my chosen major, and severely eroding my sense of worth.
And out of that wasteland of shame and failure and insecurity, God began to set the stage for my freedom.
I don’t buy into the “everything happens for a reason” platitude. Parents bury their babies. Children are enslaved and sexually exploited. Families are torn apart through death and divorce and war. These are horrific and life-altering, and anyone touched by tragedy can give multiple examples of wanting to put a well-meaning person’s head through a wall for trying to throw some version of this Band-Aid on their gaping, festering wound.
But I am living proof that there is a God, strong and loving, who is in the business of actively repurposing the pieces of our lives that appear broken beyond repair, if we invite him into our mess. Sometimes I’m pretty sure he’s using using the X-acto knife and the hot glue gun on me, and frankly, this does not feel fun. But I know where I’ve come from, and I know that the work in me is not yet complete. It will be, though. Because the God I’ve invited in to the garage of my broken emotions and junked dreams is using his vision and creativity and determination to make me into a beautiful, functional, Upcycled work of art.
Do you think it’s possible that God might want to do some Upcycling in the parts of you that seem broken beyond repair?