The fierce winds that blew so cold and strong this weekend had another effect besides breaking me out of the denial that winter is coming. I love Iowa and I love Iowans but this east coast born and bred really doesn’t like Iowa winter. Especially when the arctic front drops just below Des Moines making it feel more like Canada than the Midwest. And the infamous winter white-outs … what’s up with that? I neither heard nor experienced that in the east coast. Nor flesh-freezing weather; seriously, is that necessary? But I digress.
I live downtown which is usually, remarkably for a city, neat and clean. We have our dumpsters for our trash and neat little poop bag dispensers for dog owners like me to keep the sidewalks and small grassy strips clean. Most buildings have some kind of container out front for cigarette butts and we even have street people who regularly swing by and collect cans and bottles to redeem for the five cent deposit.
Every few weeks you see groups of people wearing matching Principal or Wells Fargo t-shirts, laughing and enjoying a “day off” from work as they volunteer to walk around the city and pick up trash. Des Moines is a great place to live, made even better by how clean it is. This past weekend, however, the winds they did blow. And they blew and howled and tore down allies and in the process helped themselves to whatever they could find in the dumpsters. Trash and lots of it was lifted and carried and deposited all over the streets and sidewalks and buildings. Isn’t it amazing how long it takes to clean and how fast a mess can be made? Des Moines was a mess.
I am Des Moines. I am a mess. I have a dumpster that I do my best to stash my trash in and I try really hard to keep the top down so no one can see or smell it. I think that only I know its contents and as long as I can keep it contained I look good to the rest of the world. My streets are clean. Problem is, now and again the winds come and lift the top and spread the contents around and low and behold, there is my stinky garbage visible and in plain sight and in all kinds of places it shouldn’t be. How humiliating. And I remember again the futility of trying to keep myself clean and how even my very best efforts are always in vain.
Thankfully I have a God who is neither too ashamed nor too proud to walk my streets and clean up my mess. God, the Creator of the universe, dons a t-shirt, takes up a garbage bag and one of those pointy sticks and stabs up my sins, cleans up my hurts, lifts up my offenses, sweeps away my pride, and sets me to rights again. This isn’t His day off; this is His daily work! And He does this with patience and grace and with so much love for me regardless my state. Jesus- my Savior, my King- and my ever humble and oh-so gentle garbage man … how incredibly amazing is that?