Friday, April 27, 2012

Lessons from a Jar of Pickles - Redefining Wastefulness

You can read the introduction to this series here where I explain how three jars of terrible-tasting pickles came to be in my pantry.

There are several reasons why it was hard for me to throw away those three jars of awful pickles. One of them was:

I spent time and money on these, and to throw them away is wasteful. It would be like throwing money and effort in the trash.

I often correlate value with tangibility. If I spend money on something, I ought to have something tangible to show for it. Value = stuff. Value = practicality.

Spending money and time on jars of pickles and then not eating them is a waste of a tangible resource. Especially since I continued to buy pickles from the store - it is a waste to spend money on something that you already have sitting on a shelf at home. So there is actually a double-waste - the money spent on the pickling supplies and the money spent on the extra jars of pickles that I shouldn't have had to buy because I already had (awful) pickles at home.

Every time I saw those jars there was a sense of guilt associated with them. I ought to eat those. Not eating them is a waste.

But they taste awful.

Yeah, they taste awful because you failed at making them. You should have gone to the store for more dill but you didn't. I sure hope you learned your lesson.

Guilt, failure, and "you made your bed and now you have to lie in it" condemnation every time I looked at those darn pickles.

Now, this conversation wasn't that obvious in my head. I didn't fully realize this was happening because it was painful and I have a knack (I think we all do) for pushing away that pain. I'm quite talented in the art of ignoring familiar pain. I say "familiar" because I think we all have hurts and wounds that eventually become fixtures in our lives - for me those things have been procrastination and failure and laziness and probably some other stuff I can't think of right now. It's the stuff I bump up against all the time and I have this lie in my head that I am deficient - the pain exists because I am deficient. And it is just too much to openly confront that stuff all of the time so I learn to tolerate it, to ignore it, to medicate it with food and episodes of Chopped or Storage Wars or whatever.

And shuffling those pickles around on the shelf seemed to be much easier than throwing them away and admitting that I am wasteful and I am a failure and I am deficient.

Lies, lies, and more lies!

Thank you Jesus for truth and for healing and for the reality of the gospel! The truth is that as a human, I am deficient. However, in Jesus I am a new creation. I don't have to live in condemnation and I can give my deficiency and failures to Jesus and allow him to use them for good. I don't have to accept my fate as a failure - I can step into the inheritance that Jesus freely shares with me. Oh the GRACE and the FREEDOM that come with that inheritance!!!

Over the past few years I have allowed God to show me the depth of this reality and I have finally allowed myself to see me for how God sees me. And it is this renewing of my perspective that enabled me to throw away those confounded pickles!

So that night as I journaled about my day and thought about the pickles, the Holy Spirit dropped a new thought in my head. You know what he showed me?

The time and money I spent wasn't a waste - it was an investment in my creativity. It was an investment in an experience, and the experience itself was the value. The experience made it money well spent.

Talk about turning a thought upside down!

I realized that my creativity, my desire to make things from scratch, my desire to try new things - these are all gifts. They are a testament to the fact that I am a reflection of THE Creator. But if I believe the lie that every creative impulse and every attempt at something new must result in something that is useful and practical and tangible and successful, then my creativity will wither and die. I will never cease to compare the amount of my "successes" to the number of my "failures." I will see each failure as a sign that I'm not really as creative as I ought to be and my confidence to experiment and try new ideas will shrink away to nothingness. I will constantly compare my failures to the visible success of others, not recognizing that their success is a result of their (invisible-to-me) failures. I will believe the lie that I am not as creative as they are, I will believe that I'm not good enough, I will eventually believe that I should stop trying.

Instead, I need to see that failure is a part of creativity. Failure is a useful experience because I have the opportunity to learn from it. I must reject the lie that failure is an ending; instead, I must recognize it as part of the process.

This has redefined how I look at spending money on things like art supplies and spending time on projects. My daughter Kaitlyn is very creative and she loves anything that has to do with art. In the past, I avoided purchasing supplies and doing projects with her because the practical, tangible outcome didn't leave me anything to show for the time and money. What can you do with snowflakes made out of coffee filters? How is a pipe cleaner crown useful? If felt wasteful to make projects like this and then see them end up in the trash. Money wasted, I would think.

But when I look at the benefit of fostering her creativity, when I begin to see the value of experiences, suddenly it is not a waste. And I no longer agonize about throwing projects away. Part of the joy is the process and the adventure of trying new things; gone is the pressure to make every creation significant and useful and worthy of hanging onto forever.

Making terrible pickles doesn't mean I am deficient, and throwing them away doesn't mean that I am wasteful. It means that I care enough about myself to invest time and money into making sure that my creativity doesn't go to waste.

Wastefulness redefined.

1 comment:

esther said...

I have several jars of pickles I canned several years ago. I believe it is time to get rid of them since we don't eat them after they've been opened! I'll put them on the compost pile which won't be a total waste, and won't can any more pickles!

Thanks, Erin