Getting my hands dirty

Over on Addie’s blog, she recently asked people what small things they are doing in ministry, things that normally get overlooked or seen as insignificant compared to big full-time ministry and mission work. But we all have roles to play, in the midst of our ordinary lives, bringing God to this world through our actions. At first I was thinking of things that we label as giving to others: sending cards of condolence, contributing food. But then I asked God.

 Lately God has been challenging me to pick up the rubbish I see, instead of just walking on past and leaving it to the people whose job it is. Sometimes this means walking with quite a collection, or getting my hands dirty with who knows quite what, or walking quite a distance until I pass a rubbish bin. “Why should I? I didn’t drop it,” I wonder, annoyed to backtrack yet again. “What will people think of me, going back to pick up someone else’s rubbish?” But it’s not what people think of me that matters, it’s what God thinks and whether I am being obedient. But still it rubs.

 I can remember having a conversation in school when I was about nine or ten, I think, contributing a comment about how we wouldn’t need to give people the job of picking up rubbish if people were responsible for it themselves. And doing one small bit of binning your own rubbish takes much less time and effort than one person collecting lots from all around the place.

 Then in high school, instead of lunchtime detention, people were given “wobble duty”. The school never seemed to do much beyond providing rubbish bins to encourage people to put rubbish in the bins themselves, let alone recycle.

 Most mornings when I get off my bus in town I see a few people out with buckets and long-handled grabbers picking up rubbish from the day (or night) before. Some job to start the day with. I’d be cynical very quick doing that every morning (wait, I’m already cynical. Anyway…).

 To me, these spikes to my conscience to not leave rubbish just sitting there for others is part of bringing redemption to this world, working to bring goodness and transformation to this world of throwing away without thought. When I see rubbish, I feel the whole of creation groaning with birth pangs, longing for the transformation back to how God intended this world to be.


These small acts, which don’t really cost me much more than a few moments (and another hand-washing) also tie in to my recent ponderings about demonstrating my faith for my girls, showing it in action, not just teaching the morals of it or spouting theology at them. These small acts can be a ministry to my city that my daughters can join in with, that easily tie in with conservation and care messages they are getting elsewhere, but I can discuss with them the way God talks to us through our conscience sometimes.

 A ministry like picking up rubbish as I come across it isn’t demonstrating my faith in order to pass it on to my kids. Rather it is an action that is inclusive of my kids, it is a ministry they can be involved in, as much as I am. Nothing needs to be downsized or simplified, something I see a lot when teaching kids about faith and God, and something I see a number of problems with. This act of redemption fits them as they are now, even the three-year-old.

 And it fits me.

Who am I to say picking up rubbish is beneath me, not my responsibility because I do and know better? I am dust. My being groans with creation for redemption, so let me bend this body and bring it forth where I can.


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