Every month – when my housemates and I divide up our chores – I tend to volunteer most often for compost. There is something extremely meditative, relaxing and relieving in turning a compost pile. I’d like to think that there is a spiritual practice found in the sifting and digging of dirt, moldy grapefruit, diluted coffee grounds, slimy bell peppers.
Honestly, I’m not going to pretend that there is anything fancy or elegant about this compost pile. Frankly, it’s dirt.
However, today as I assessed the rotten, moldy, gooey bag of bananas sitting on the counter, I began to see the compost in a whole new light: our spiritual process of healing and regenerating our identity in Christ.
We are only human after all! How could we not want to bury the icky, gross, unpleasant, moldy, stinky insecurities and imperfections that rot at the bottom of the produce bin and the back of our refrigerators? When we take the fermenting broccoli to the compost pile of our lives, the last thing that we want to do is expose it to the sun! Bury that sucker into the dirt! (and then forget about it! Don’t dig it up! Are you crazy?!)
Honestly, we have to be submerged to the dark places in our lives before we can resurface again, refreshed and healed. Just as we retreat to places of refuge, Christ retreated to the garden, Gethsemane when he was in his darkest hour: Matthew 26:
36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and *said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. 38 Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”
Through the resurrection, Christ Himself was simultaneously one of the weakest, defeated, vulnerable, celebrated, exalted, strongest, invincible resilient and hard-core individuals to ever walk the face of the Earth. Essentially, he was the “Compost King”; he took the dirt and filth and grim of all the world and turned it into something new.
Compost = Our Healing Process: once the food is buried in the ground, it may resurface at times yet each time, it comes up a little smaller and a little more broken down. You are not going to see immediate results. The rind may sit in the dark, damp quarters of the garden for a few weeks, maybe months until it has had the time and space to create a refined byproduct. We continually are working on breaking down the negative things that undermine who we are created to be. The remaining mold and slime seems to vanish into the rich soil that will fortify the kale, okra, peas, lettuce, tomatoes, and carrots of our future.
However, the fact of the matter is: Not everyone has a compost pile. Heck, a lot of people have garbage. You know where garbage ends up? The land fill. A lot of people choose to throw their rotten leftovers away.
Garbage lets its product become its defeat. Compost cannot be defeated. Yes, compost will take more maintenance and care. However, garbage is the lazy yet less physically demanding alternative. However, at the end of the day, which one is sustainable? Which one creates results? Which one creates a future?
One of my favoriteTED Talks is by a man named Ron Finley who plants vegetables in “abandoned lots, traffic medians, along the curbs,” in South Central Los Angeles. He claims that his community needs to find an “alternative to fast food” because “the drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys” (Finley).
In this talk, Finley passionately impressed upon his crowd, “You’d be surprised what the soil can do if you let it be your canvas.”
As I thought longer on this analogy of the resurrection through compost, I thought to the refugees that I work alongside at Iskashitaa Refugee Network. They are master gardeners. One of the refugees from Bhutan grows marigolds and takes care of his apartment complex’s garden with fervor, passion, attention, care and precision. One of our services through Iskashitaa is to use create compost out of any excess produce. Then, the compost goes to one of the refugees and their family in order to sustain their gardens. They let their soil and their gardens be their “canvas.”
It speaks very clearly to their arduous journey: They are renewing their lives through the therapeutic practice of gardening. Their canvas is clearing up and they are able to start anew. Even as many negative memories come into their minds, they are building a hopeful life among the ruins. They are resurrecting from the ashes of their past and allowing themselves to be transformed by their new culture, identity and perspective.
Just next to our compost pile are three bins filled with “finished” soil. (I’m not sure we’re ever quite “finished” soil ourselves….but I digress). In the first bin, I reached down and saw a bunch of green stems. I picked it up and found this radiant red onion right underneath the surface. Sometimes, even when we think as though there is no more hope for change, the red onion lies just beneath the surface.