Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Cleaning Up

A few weeks ago, I went camping with the cub scouts at Fort Washington. We got there in the late afternoon on Saturday and missed the daytime scouting activities (we did make the campfire ceremonies and skits). Since we had missed most everything, we decided that we would stay on Sunday morning and help with a service project.

After a cold night, we got up on Sunday and went to closing ceremonies to find out what we could do. We were directed down to the bank of the Potomac to walk along the "beach" and pick up trash. The spot where we were sent is kind of a bend in the river, and a lot of debris piles up on the shore. It was windy and hard to even hold the trash bags open. The amount of trash was overwhelming.

At first it was almost paralyzing. This was beyond hope. There was so much trash piled up along the shore that there was no way that our group of three adults and four boys could even begin to make a dent. Why even start? We could work here forever and probably never be done. But, we did start. We did the only thing that we could - we started picking up one piece of trash at a time. A bottle. A can. A shoe. A tennis ball. Fishing line. Plastic bags. Diapers. Styrofoam. More bottles and shoes and tennis balls. Paper. Metal. Glass.

Before we knew it we had six or seven overflowing trash bags that were heavy to carry back. Did we get it all - sadly, no. But, we did make a difference in that relatively short time. We made a dent, we made some progress. I think it is fair to say that we all felt pretty good about what we accomplished.

For some reason, I though about this again recently in connection with approaching overwhelming projects. Think of how God must feel looking at all of us that stray so far. How tempting it must be to say "Too much! Too many! Too big of a problem!" How easy it would be for God to either throw up His hands entirely or to prioritize and spend time with the ones that are closest - or the problems that are most easily addressed. But, He doesn't. Amazingly enough, He is there for each of us, individually and collectively.

"God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging." Psalm 46:1-3 (NIV)

To God, each of us is precious. He treats each of us as though we are the only one. There is nobody more important. There is no problem bigger than our problem. Our prayers don't get put to the bottom of the pile when someone else's come in. If we let Him, He has the power and the love to address everything and everyone, not to just make a dent.

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