Written By Stephen Clark
For our charity appeal, we recycle aluminium drink cans to raise money. Sometimes I would go out with a bag to collect the cans that were thrown in the streets so we could sell them later. The proceeds went to school fees in India: 150 kilogram of cans = £60 = one year school fees. One day as I was doing this and praying at the same time, I had this insight.
Sometimes the cans I found were in their normal states, just left in the street or pavement; other times they were dented or crushed, or flattened under the wheels of vehicles. Sometimes they were clean and sometimes they were covered in mud, dirty. Wherever they were and whatever state they were in didn’t bother me at all—I picked them all up because they are sold by weight and each has exactly the same value; each was equally important to me. I realized that what I was doing with my cans was what God was doing with souls, with His children. He seeks them out. Many of them are discarded. Some are dented or flattened by life, some clean, some muddy, but each with exactly the same value in His sight.
The other reason why I enjoyed picking up cans was because I knew that with each can collected, I’m getting closer and closer to achieving my goal, that is raising money for school fees. In fact, I was delighted at each one I found—even if it was squashed or muddy. Similarly, I believe it was also that way for God when He saved the soul of one of His creatures.
But sadly, there were also times when I would pick up cans that were not made of aluminium but of steel. This was bitterly disappointing because while the aluminium ones had an intrinsic value (for the purposes of recycling); the steel ones did not. Even though I had expended the same amount of effort in picking them up, I had to reject them.
This is the same for God too. Sometimes, despite His efforts in reaching out to souls, there will always be those who fail to open their hearts to Him. They remain in their “old ways” and remain separated from Him by their own choice. Ultimately, God would reject them because of their unbelief.
After collecting the cans, the next stage was to take them to the recycling centre. This is where the old cans are smelted. I learned a spiritual lesson from this experience too.
All the cans are put into a smelter, where they are heated up and melted (at a very hot temperature), After a while all the molten metal sinks to the bottom of the container and all the impurities, like paint or dirt, float to the top and then skimmed off. The molten metal is then poured into ingots to solidify. This can then be used to make anything, like new cans, engines, even airplanes. It was like God reshaping our lives in the way He wants, giving us an entirely new life or purpose. But instead of a furnace, He uses trials and sufferings to purge and transform our lives. And through this sanctification process, we are gradually transformed back into His image and likeness.
A saint is a recycled sinner.