It’s not that I have a habit of rooting around in garbage cans looking for used toothbrushes or half-eaten sandwiches. Rather, ever since I was a kid, I’ve had the ability to discover amazing things others would call “trash.”
For example, when my wife and I were first married we were broke musicians, so I furnished about half of our house with things I found on people’s curbs. Romantic, I know.
Not too long ago, my sister and I were driving through my mom’s neighborhood and I happened to notice an elderly lady throwing something away in her trashcan that looked interesting to me. To the untrained eye, one would’ve driven right past her, but not me. I possess the sixth sense that allows me to see “awesome things” in trash.
I asked my sister to stop the car and as she reluctantly did, I jumped out and asked the lady if I could have what was in her trashcan. She looked confused, but gave me permission. As I pulled the item out of the trash and unfolded it, I realized it was a very cool leather jacket. But this wasn’t an ordinary leather jacket. I was holding an authentic World War II bomber jacket.
Just by holding it I could sense the stories and history that emanated from the leather. I couldn’t take the jacket without first knowing a bit of its history. The elderly lady was gracious enough to explain that her late husband was a decorated fighter pilot in the United States Navy and that he, while wearing this jacket, had flown several missions that are now recorded in history books.
So I asked her the question that you’re probably asking yourself: “Why in the heck are you throwing it away?” She explained that while she loved her husband, he was gone and she had to get rid of the memories. The jacket was simply too painful to keep around any longer. With tears in her eyes, she gladly gave it to me to keep.
Why do I share this story? Because isn’t it funny how one person can look at something and say it “used to have value or purpose” but now belongs in the trash? Yet, someone else can look at the same thing and say “No! This belongs in a museum, behind glass with lights shining on it!”
How is it that two people can look at the same thing and have opposing opinions of its worth?
It’s all about perspective.
When you look at yourself in the mirror, what would you honestly say about the person you see? Trash or treasure?
For me, when I look at the jacket that I pulled from the trash, I’m personally reminded of two simple, yet life-changing truths.
1. You still have value no matter your choice
Beyond the social media persona or the mask you may wear, if I were to ask you, “Do you feel valuable” what would you say? Most of us, in our quieter moments, would say we used to feel we had value until we made “that decision or choice.” I’m talking about those things we’ve done that now makes us feel like we’re too damaged to hold the worth we once had.
I’ve discovered that if we measure our value based on what we “were,” we can never pursue the horizons of what we can become. There are great lessons we can discover when we look back. Or in some cases, we can’t rediscover our value unless we make the decision to let the past stay where it belongs.
2. You still have purpose, no matter what’s happened
I don’t know about you, but I am a merciless judge and jury when it comes to myself. There have been seasons in my life where I’ve allowed shame, guilt, and regret lead me to think my purpose has been too wrecked to be salvaged. For me, my problem hasn’t been believing God could forgive me, but finding the point to where I can forgive myself.
While I’ve done things that have given me a one-way ticket to the trash, by living second I’ve been afforded a second chance. To become “second” is to allow God to write a new story, a story of redemption. God specializes in rescuing things headed to the trash and repurposes them to be things of beauty, value and purpose.
David Martin is the youth and culture strategist for I Am Second. You can find David on social media @realDavidMartin.
To go deeper into what it means to rediscover your value and purpose, watch Annie Lobert’s story HERE.