Many companies are going green; some even choosing to make their products either biodegradable or out of recycled materials. States, and even countries, have started banning plastic. Of course, the topic of environmental wellness is nothing new; people have been speaking about it as far as the early 1970s, but still, you can’t help but smile when you notice more and more people becoming sensitive to the thought of taking care of our planet.
Last year I felt encouraged and inspired by seeing this movement becoming bigger, with kids as young as 12 even starting campaigns in their own towns to rid their cities and beaches of garbage. This lead me to buying myself my own PikStik Pro Grabber to help me pick up trash in my own city.
…But did I get sucked into the trend of trash picking and environmental wellness only because it started becoming a trending topic? I wouldn’t be surprised if some have thought that. 🙄 After all, no one REALLY knows what you do behind closed doors.
Does it TRULY matter if I do or don’t pick up trash? Aren’t there better things to do than concern myself about a little trash on the side of the road or even in a public setting?
God thinks it matters. Let me explain what I mean…
It was early 2012. I had just surrendered my heart to God and was at the start of a new journey living a life of obedience and faith. I had grown up having certain ideas of God that I knew I’d have to challenge and eventually destroy.
One of the ideas I had (and still struggle with) of God was that I had to do something incredible in order to prove to him (and others) that I was a true Christ follower. Some ideas included moving to a foreign country to preach the gospel, or becoming something important like a nurse, or maybe even working at nothing but Christian organizations to prove I was a Christian. There was nothing wrong with any of these, but my approach to them was flawed… which is why I was shocked, if not greatly confused, when I felt God nudging me to simply pick up trash after I had asked Him what He’d have me do.
“You want me to pick up… trash…? You’re kidding, right? This can’t be right.”
I was sure this was a trick from the devil. Why would God even want me to concern myself about TRASH? This couldn’t possibly be His will for me. Besides, why should I concern myself with the messiness of others? I didn’t throw the trash I saw lying on the street, so, therefor, I was not responsible for picking it up, much less worrying about it.
But I couldn’t shake the uncomfortable feeling I felt every time I walked by a piece of trash on the streets or even in a public restaurant. I was still in denial that God had even told me to make this my primary focus.
“God, seriously? I would have expected you to tell me to move to India or China and take care of orphans. I would have expected you to tell me to go to school to study to be a missionary or a nurse. I would have even expected you to have me go to the homeless shelter and serve the homeless! Why in the heck is trash picking my “mission?” That’s so unlike anything a lot of other Christians are doing!”
“Do you want to change the world or not?” He asked.
I swear God can drop the most mic-dropping one-liners you can never argue with.
It started reluctantly… but I started picking up trash. Sometimes there were days where I simply walked past whatever I saw lying on the floor, pretending I hadn’t noticed what I’d seen (until a nudge in my spirit sent me walking back to pick it up… although there were times when my own will would “win.”)
There were days when I felt incredibly embarrassed because of what I was doing. I honestly saw no purpose in what I was doing… until one day, when God had another one of those ‘mic-drop’ comebacks…
In the middle of my complaining and thinking that all of my work was useless, God gave me some perspective.
I had thought to myself that cleaning up another person’s mess, whether in a public restaurant or shop, or out in the streets, was and should NOT be my responsibility. I threw my own trash away and so if another person chose not to do what I did, then that was on them… NOT ME.
“Did you ever think to yourself that when you clean up what someone else threw on the floor it could make another person’s job a little easier? What about the people who work at busy restaurants? Don’t you think they also get tired of cleaning up what others don’t care to throw away properly?”
I had never seen it that way before. It had never occurred to me that by cleaning up trash, I was, in fact, SERVING others. It had never occurred to me that God wanted to use me to bless my community, and I had never truly realized just how much God cared about his own creation until he had given me this revelation.
All along I had thought that I needed to do something HUGE so I could be put on display for everyone to notice, but instead I was working behind the scenes, doing little acts of kindness that people would probably never notice.
It was difficult at first but I continued to pick up trash. There were days when cleaning was the last thing I wanted to do, and sometimes my own will would get me out of doing it, but I’d continue cleaning and even challenging myself to go the extra mile. This was all done in secret for 4 years, until last year when I finally felt God leading me to be more open about my work.
It has been 5 years now since I made the decision to listen to God and pick up trash, and since then I’ve continued learning much about the environment and what I can do to take better care of it. I began to understand the importance of caring for God’s creation; after all, humans and animals are all affected by what happens to our planet.
What started as simply picking up trash eventually lead me to giving up certain facial products that contain ingredients that affect our oceans; it has lead me to speaking out against companies *cough* Nestle *cough* who don’t care about our planet nor the people and animals they hurt; it’s also lead me to switching to certain cruelty-free brands that make it their goal to donate a certain percentage of their sales profit towards causes around the world, which include clean water for poor villages and education for children of low-income families.
I call myself an amateur environmentalist because I know there is still so much to learn and better ways in which I can help my community and planet. I don’t do things perfectly and I can guarantee you that 4 or 5 years from now I’ll know much more than I do now.
But why get so caught up trying to clean up a planet that I know won’t be around for too long? I know this is the question many Christians point out. Sure, Jesus is coming back again soon so why “waste” time trying to fix something that won’t be here forever?
“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.”
I Corinthians 12:4-6
Some might not like this argument but to me, the whole “It’s a waste to care about the planet. You should focus on more important things.” sounds just as bad as “Why not eat all the junk food I want? Why be healthy? I’m going to die anyway.”
Truth is we all like nice things. I believe you can agree with me when I say that you wouldn’t like living in garbage. There are so many beautiful places around the world that people want to visit and see (I, myself being an adventurer, am one of those people), and it would strike me as no surprise if many of these same people would have their hearts broken if the places they’ve wanted to see (like the Great Barrier Reef) became the opposite of what they once knew it as.
As a Christian, I’ve learned much about my Heavenly Father through creation. I love observing beautiful flowers because they remind me of the daughter I lost, I love looking at the adorable animals that take up residence in the holes on the ground and in the trees because they make me smile and laugh, and I enjoy watching documentaries about ocean life because I get curious about what it would be like to live down there; these all teach me about the creativity, the awesomeness, and power of my God. But this knowledge also begs a question… if I love these things, then why wouldn’t I take care of them?
“Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.””
Peter had just been told that he would die for following Christ, and that his death would glorify God. Peter, of course, must of have found this unfair and decided to inquire about the fate of another disciple-John. Jesus, straight forward but loving as always, pretty much tells Peter to mind his own business.
My work may seem unusual, if not strange and more like a waste, but just as Peter realized that he needed to do whatever Jesus wanted him to do rather than focus on what the other disciples were or weren’t going to do, so must I focus on the work God has given me. God’s not going to ask what people told me they thought I should do, He’s going to ask what I did with the things He entrusted me to do.
What about you? In what ways do you ignore or take on well-meaning, mean-spirited, or misinformed individuals? How do you continue serving God in spite of setbacks or criticism?