Grace Dumpster Dives

“Seasoned,” © 2016 Lynn Abbott Studios. Used with Permission.

© 2016 Lynn Abbott

Horrified best describes her reaction.

However, I was too busy dragging the damaged cart from the dumpster to reflect on my scheme’s advisability. The lines were good, and the smell? It was nothing that a little bleach couldn’t cure.

My husband served as my accomplice on this expedition to the construction dumpster temporarily lodged at the end of our cul-de-sac. My neighbors had already put it to good use. I was simply making the most of an unbelievably excellent opportunity.

My mother? My skeptic. A child of the depression, and World War II, she had happily attempted to leave hand-me-downs behind when she and Dad furnished their home.

Dad, on the other hand, carried his Depression era habits with him into conjugal bliss. No matter how battered and broken, nothing was without value. Even if the object had to be reduced to the sum of its parts, it could be reused or fixed.

Obviously, I am my father’s child. It must be in the genes because our son was cheering that day as I dragged home my prize.

And so the recycling bug broke into my mother’s happy, new and beautiful modernity.

There I was, doing it again. It couldn’t be helped. I simply love the challenge of making something beautiful out of someone’s cast-offs; turning an object gone awry into a piece of the sublime.

Yet, in spite of my mother’s objections, I think my passion just might have some redeeming qualities . . .

While talking by telephone with a dear friend, I recently recalled some of the trash in my own life. I reflected on my past and noted that many life decisions had been made hastily.

And I ruefully confessed to her, “If I had to do it all over again? I wouldn’t.”

Regrets . . . who among us doesn’t have them?  Sometimes life feels like a dumpster.

Whatever the case, looking back, I readily admit that I’ve made some pretty foolhardy decisions along the way.

And unfortunately, there is no “Back to the Future;” no time machine; no rewind or even delete button. Believe me, if there were, I’d be the first to let you know.

But while there is no rewind button… no re-do… there is amazing grace.

Indeed. I’m incredibly thankful that God’s mercy, grace and forgiveness ensures that we need not be defined by our past mistakes.

God, after all, is in the business of redeeming people and events.

Aaron–Moses’ brother– discovered that.  Yup, God’s work in our lives sometimes smacks of unexpected irony.

If you have been reading here for a while, you have noted that Moses has been on my radar in recent weeks, and thus, by default, his brother Aaron.

As I have delved further into Moses’ history, however, Aaron has risen to the fore.

Moses gave grace,  and Aaron frequently received it.   In fact, Moses pulled Aaron out of more than a few dumpster piles.

That’s right. If anyone had cause for regret, Aaron did.  Of course, he started well.  Hadn’t he and Moses stood before Pharaoh and spoken God’s message?

Yeah, Aaron assisted Moses throughout the confrontation with Pharaoh.  He journeyed to the Red Sea.  Aaron saw the waters part.

He stood by Moses as God provided Manna and water in the wilderness. Undoubtedly, Aaron experienced the miracles of God up close and personal.

Even so, Aaron failed. You remember: While Moses communed with God on Mount Sinai,  Aaron served as “vice-president.”

Apparently, Aaron didn’t have Moses’ backbone.  Perhaps, Aaron possessed a great deal of compassion.  Or maybe, like most of us, he simply wished to be liked.

Whatever the case, while Moses was away, Aaron waffled.  When asked by the people to create an idol for them, Aaron evidently feared their anger if he did not comply.

His reaction was certainly understandable.

After all, Pharaoh himself had feared the great numbers of the people of Israel.  Scripture notes that there were more Israelis than Egyptians, (Exodus 1:9-11).

As a result, Pharaoh made the Israelis slaves, and  subjected them to harsh labor.

Wow.

Pharaoh had the highly trained Egyptian army at his disposal.  He possessed many chariots, the most modern war technology of his day.

He had great wealth and could command many men.

And yet, he feared Israel’s great population.

If Pharaoh feared, is it any wonder that Aaron who certainly didn’t have Pharaoh’s resources  trembled when a large contingency demanded  an idol?

Under pressure, Aaron’s faith faltered.     He succumbed to fear.

Yup.  Fear was probably Aaron’s great weakness.  After all, when Moses returned and confronted Aaron about the golden calf, Aaron again attempted to protect himself.

Moses questioned his brother; Aaron blamed the people.

A strong leader would have taken responsibility, but Aaron whined, “…you know the people yourself that they are prone to evil,” (Exodus 32:22).

The gold calf fiasco, however, was not Aaron’s only regret.  In Numbers, God calls Aaron and sister Miriam out for their complaining.  Doesn’t sound like a big deal, does it?

Nevertheless, they did more than just a little grumbling.  Numbers 12:1 actually says, “Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married…”

It seems that Miriam and Aaron were encouraging mutiny.  They planted seeds of distrust.  They gossiped and undermined Moses’ authority.

And as is often the case, the more they talked, the more justified they felt they were in their complaints.  Likely, no one felt free to challenge Moses’ brother and sister.  Thus, they grew more bold.

They argued, “‘Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses?  Has He not spoken through us as well?”  (Numbers 12:2).

They had taken their murmuring too far.  God stepped in and confronted Miriam and Aaron in Moses’ presence.

Speaking of Moses, God said,” … he beholds the form of the LORD.  Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant, against Moses?” (Numbers 12:8b).

In other words, Moses spoke directly to God; Moses had seen God.  He had been chosen especially by God.  Yet, they had dared to challenge Moses’ leadership and in doing so, they had actually challenged God.

The account in Numbers reveals that when God concluded the reprimand, Miriam became leprous.  Interestingly enough, though, scripture makes no mention of Aaron contracting leprosy.

The reason?  I believe that as the eldest, Miriam was the instigator.    Thus, she carried the consequences for their rebellion.

Why did Aaron go along with Miriam?  I believe he again feared disapproval.  He crumbled.

Caught up in sibling rivalry and gossip, Aaron found himself on the hot seat.

He had learned, however, that shifting blame didn’t get him very far.  He begged Moses for forgiveness.

Instead of blaming Miriam, Aaron said, “Oh, my lord, I beg you, do not account this sin to us, in which we have acted foolishly and in which we have sinned,” (Numbers 12:11).

Moses demonstrated tremendous grace in that situation.  He interceded on behalf of Miriam and Aaron.  Many would have wished to get even.  But not Moses.  Instead, he prayed for those who attempted to undermine him.

Amazing.

Moses’ extraordinary response, however, is not what caught my attention as I completed my reading of the book of Exodus.

Nor was it God’s healing of Miriam that impressed me.

God’s response to Aaron, however, surprised me.  I re-visited Exodus chapter 40:12-16 more than once. I couldn’t believe what I read.

But there it was in black and white.  God told Moses to anoint and consecrate Aaron and Aaron’s sons as a perpetual priesthood to God.

Perpetual.

Ongoing.

“For all generations to come,” God said.

Aaron.  That same Aaron– who had cast the golden calf and enabled the people’s return to paganism while Moses communed with God on Mount Sinai– served as a high priest to Yahweh.

We’re talking the same Aaron who with Miriam, had nearly mutinied against God’s chosen prophet and leader, Moses.

Yup.  God chose that very waffler… Aaron, the one with all the regrets. Aaron and his descendants  interceded on behalf of God’s people until God’s perfect high priest burst forth from the grave and ascended to heaven.

I love the irony of Aaron’s story.

Our amazing God certainly “flipped” Aaron’s “house of regret and rubble.”

Yet, when I stop to consider it, I recognize that this was not simply God’s “one-off.” God is actually in the ultimate “fixer upper” business.

He gave Adam and Eve a choice in the garden, and when they chose poorly, He didn’t scrap the whole human project.  Although His creation had been marred by sin and evil, He didn’t crumple it up, or throw it away.

Instead, Christ  redeemed us from the debris. He climbed into the mess, and reached to reclaim us. He rescued us from the dumpster.

John 3:17 records, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

All things considered, I think that God might very well be the ultimate, dumpster diver. He saw treasure in what another might have relegated to the trash.

Paul, in the book of Romans, expresses it this way: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”

And the stench of my sin? Well, Christ covered that, too.

Paul writes, “For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing,” (2 Corinthians 2:15).

So it was for Aaron.  Although life had thrown some difficult challenges at him, although he had failed again and again, Aaron was beloved by God.  And God redeemed him.

Regrets?  Sure.  We all have them.  But in Christ our regrets no longer separate us from God.  Through Christ, our lives are redeemed–made new again.

In addition, our failures do not disqualify us from the great story that God has planned.

God delights in  renewing and re-purposing our lives.

After all, God transformed Aaron. That people-fearing, idol-making, complainer became a faith-filled, courageous, servant of the Living God!

Without a doubt,  I personally regret sin, and some of the many unwise choices that  I’ve made.

I thank God for His unrelenting love and grace toward His children.

A genuinely repentant Aaron was not defined by his past.  He embodied Paul’s words in Philippians 3:12-14:

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me…Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

In Christ, our sin and failure have been removed…

David wrote, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us,” (Psalm 103:12).

As did Aaron, David knew the grace of God from experience.  Despite David’s failures, God called David “a man after God’s own heart.”

That’s amazing grace.  God guides His children to great deeds despite their downfalls.

The house may crumble, but it is not abandoned; it is restored.

Truly, God has great plans for you and me (Jeremiah 29:11).  By His grace and mercy, He has redeemed us.

And knowing this, you and I rest confidently.  Indeed, by God’s grace, we forget what is behind and press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us, (Philippians 3:12).

Yes, God’s grace makes all things new again.

“Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’ and you forgave the guilt of my sin . . . You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance,” ~Psalm 32:5-7