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I made a creepy discovery this week.  On the floor of the carport lay a half burned, half chewed, little girl’s shoe.  This is eerie for a multitude of reasons, the greatest of which is that I have no little girls.

It didn’t take long to track down our dog as the prime suspect in this little mystery.  Our dog only scratched the surface of it, however, because this particular mystery has layers.  To dig a little deeper, we will need to go back in time 40-50 years.

The property on which we live has been in my husband’s family for over thirty years.  Before it belonged to our family, the property served a very different purpose.  It was the site of some untoward business dealings.  Although some of these uses remain a mystery, we know that it was used as a kind of back-woods biker bar. There were some interesting characters who spent time on this land.  The house and establishment on the land burned down decades ago, and it was later bought by my husband’s parents and revitalized as a home and farmland.

Peace and quiet as the sun sets on our backyard.

Standing in our backyard, one would never imagine that the land was once used so differently.   It has been renewed, redeemed, and is a haven for growing little boys.  Still, if one looks closely enough, there is evidence of what once stood here.

Last spring, we had a small forest fire on one side of our property.  The fire was easily extinguished and no one was hurt.   Afterwards, when surveying the damage, we discovered that the woods must have served as the previous owner’s personal landfill.  We uncovered mounds of old soda cans and beer bottles, small drums of oil, old food containers, rotting carpets and other cloth materials, and glass jars of all sorts.  Imagine anything that could remain intact buried for over forty years, and we found it buried in those piles.   Nature had covered it over so effectively that we had no idea the extent of the buried garbage.   So we find ourselves back at the beginning, with a burned shoe, retrieved by a dog, decades after it was discarded in a garbage dump.

I find this a poignant allegory for life before and after salvation.  The before versions of our lives are also a little untoward, with growing garbage piles of sin.  Maybe, before Christ, we tried to bury our garbage out of the line of sight of others.  Maybe we didn’t even recognize the garbage for what it really was.  Maybe, like my dog, we misguidedly believed that the trash was actually treasure.

Either way, when Christ saves and redeems us, he does a radical transformation.  Gone is the old.  We are new creations.  He revitalizes the landscape of our souls, rebuilding and establishing new growth.  He doesn’t just re-purpose old boards, he demolishes old strongholds all together, casting a new vision of purpose.  Like my home, there is a spirit of peace that comes and takes up residence where chaos once reigned.

Still, sanctification takes time.  The old man and the new man are at war, and the battle rages in our minds and bodies.  Paul references this war in Romans 7.

 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;  but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.  Romans 7:21 – 23

If in Christ, we are new creations, but we find our old, sinful patterns lurking just below the surface.  All it takes is a little temptation or stress (or a small forest fire) for the old patterns to make themselves known.  Disposing of the garbage and allowing the new to reign is the crux of the battle, isn’t it?

Thankfully, we are not left to deal with the old garbage on our own.  Romans 8:11 promises:

 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.  Romans 8:11 ESV

That is a promise full of hope!  The Holy Spirit is at work, bringing life where there once was death.

Pause: Quiet your mind and body.  In your mind’s eye picture the landscape of your soul.  What was your “before Christ” picture and what is your “after Christ” picture?  If you have not yet allowed Christ to come into your life and redeem it, contemplate what that would be like for you.

Renew: Reflect on what is in your garbage dump.  What are the old patterns and ways that rise to the surface when you are stressed, tired, or tempted?  How does Romans 8:11 give you strength in battling those old ways?

Next: Throughout the next few days, take time to think about how your life is being changed as you grow in Christ.  Ask others who have taken an active role in your life and in your faith journey to tell you how they have seen you change over time.

May you be renewed and revitalized as you walk with Christ.

Pause, Renew, Next!