Tuesday, March 16, 2010

GARB-EOLOGIST

The man pictured at right is a garbologist, one who studies the nature and changing trends of garbage, trash, modern refuse. An archeologist, on the other hand, is one who sifts through historical ruins, finding treasures to inform our present and future. Today, I'm hoping to combine the two fields, creating a new vocation in which we sift through the old garbage in life and find (or create) new treasures! Our goal is to become Garb-eologists! In order to inspire you, let's start with my life. The first ugly heap arrived Sunday evening, when an airline rep. called to say our Spring Break flight to Florida had been canceled. Instead of arriving at 4:05pm as planned, the airline re-booked us on a later flight arriving at 11pm – in Tampa – which is still a two-hour drive from our destination. Garbage. This was piled atop my past negative experience with this same airline that ripped off the front pocket of my suitcase last year and refused to compensate me for it. Ancient ruins. Digging through the muck, I asked nicely, “Could you try to find us a flight on another airline that would arrive closer to our originally scheduled time?” The rep. actually found two available flights with another airline but on another day. No problem – I'm a burgeoning Garb-eologist! I'll just call our friends the next morning to confirm before I secure the new tickets. When I called the airline the next day to grab the tickets, you guessed it…no flights available except those stupid 11pm flights. Garbage again. So where's the treasure? Most of you are probably saying, “Well, DUH! You're going to Florida!” But when you're elbow deep in the garbage, sometimes it's tough to see the treasure….

Gen. 26:12-16 – “Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the LORD blessed him. The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him. So all the wells that his father's servants had dug in the time of his father Abraham, the Philistines stopped up, filling them with earth. Then Abimelech said to Isaac, 'Move away from us; you have become too powerful for us.'” (emphasis added)
  • Here's a little exercise that might be good to start. I've highlighted the good things in bold type, and listed the bad things below.
BAD:
  1. Philistines envied Isaac.
  2. Philistines stopped up the old wells Abraham‟s servants had dug.
  3. Abimelech (King of the Philistines) told Isaac to leave the city of Gerar.
Sometimes our emotions can give us tunnel vision, shading the good, leaving only a view of the bad. When we take the time to write down the good vs. the bad, it can sometimes put things into perspective.

Gen. 26:17-22 – “So Isaac moved away from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar and settled there. Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them. Isaac's servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there. But the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac's herdsmen and said, 'The water is ours!' So he named the well Esek, because they disputed with him. Then they dug another well, but they quarreled over that one also; so he named it Sitnah. He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it. He named it Rehoboth, saying, 'Now the LORD has given us room and we will flourish in the land.'” (emphasis added)
  • Again, I've highlighted in bold type the treasures in the midst of Isaac's garbage. It was a respectful act that Isaac reopened Abraham's wells; marvelous that God renewed the old wells' flow; a blessing that Isaac's servants found and dug new wells. However, the real treasure came from the next “garbage” heap. When Isaac faced the third confrontation over the well following “Sitnah,” he moved on and finally dug a well that no one quarreled over. It was his PERSISTENCE that became a treasure, which led to the greater treasure – finally involving God in the process! …come to think of it…though Isaac gained a wealth of persistence, what garbage might he have avoided if he called on the LORD first?
Gen. 26:23-25 – “From there he went up to Beersheba. That night the LORD appeared to him and said, 'I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.' Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the LORD . There he pitched his tent, and there his servants dug a well.” (emphasis added)
  • Again, the good things are bolded, but I must admit…my heart aches a little bit for Isaac. I know he should be thankful the Lord appeared to him. I know he should be grateful that God has promised to be with him and to bless him and increase his descendants. But I'm still hurting that God says He's Abraham's God, not Isaac's – and that He's doing it all for Abraham, not Isaac. I'm having a little spiritual pity party on Isaac's behalf, and the garbage heap is getting taller by the minute! I've fallen into the too familiar trap of spiritual envy, wishing my relationship with God was like someone else's. Whether it's 2000 B.C. or 2010 A.D., the temptation toward spiritual envy lurks behind every trash pile.
Gen. 26:26-33 – “Meanwhile, Abimelech had come to him from Gerar, with Ahuzzath his personal adviser and Phicol the commander of his forces. Isaac asked them, 'Why have you come to me, since you were hostile to me and sent me away?' They answered, 'We saw clearly that the LORD was with you; so we said, “There ought to be a sworn agreement between us” – between us and you. Let us make a treaty with you that you will do us no harm, just as we did not molest you but always treated you well and sent you away in peace. And now you are blessed by the LORD.' Isaac then made a feast for them, and they ate and drank. Early the next morning the men swore an oath to each other. Then Isaac sent them on their way, and they left him in peace. That day Isaac's servants came and told him about the well they had dug. They said, 'We've found water!' He called it Shibah, and to this day the name of the town has been Beersheba.” (emphasis added)
  • After all the abuse Isaac had taken from the Philistine herdsmen, he probably could have flung garbage all over Abimelech. Instead, he treated the Philistine king with hospitality and respect, gave himself time to sift through the ruins and find the treasure. And the next morning, Isaac made a friend instead of an enemy.
Gen. 26:34-35 – “When Esau was forty years old, he married Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and also Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite. They were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah.”
  • It's interesting that Esau's two grievous Canaanite wives are mentioned here like a footnote. A footnote of refuse, I might add. No treasure listed. No children. No joy. Nothing redemptive even later in Scripture. Sometimes there is only garbage; and only grief…and at that point, there is only God.
Lord, teach me to be a skilled Garb-eologist – sifting through both the ancient and modern garbage in my life to find the treasures. In those rare cases, when no treasure can be found, please be my Light and Safe Place in the darkness that threatens.

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