Garbage Pick-up from Heaven

Last week was painful for my wife and me. In a span of 24 hours, life dealt us a couple of hard blows, and when it was over, we could hardly stand up.

Although I normally ride the bus, on Thursday I asked my wife to take me to work. I felt stressed and wanted to spend a little more time with her and our baby. She agreed to do so, and I agreed to feed the baby in the back seat.

We didn’t get very far down the road before getting stuck behind a garbage truck.

“I don’t understand why you took this street if you saw the garbage truck,” I said.

“Yeah, well, I did,” she said.

But as we came to a halt, we stopped talking and started staring.

Glorious Garbage Pick-up

There were two, skinny, short men on the back of the garbage truck. As the truck slowed down, the pair gracefully leaped off the back like trained acrobats in a silent musical. Then they lunged after the garbage barrels, simultaneously took hold of them, and gracefully hoisted them onto a pair of vertical fork lifts on the back of the truck. The two men then briefly stepped away from the truck.

The fork lifts locked onto the barrels, automatically raised them, and tilted them into the truck. Then, with impressive vigor, it violently shook them like rag dolls for two seconds, emptying out their contents.

“Oh my gosh,” said my wife. “That is amazing.”

“It is amazing,” I said, looking over at my baby. She had stopped eating and was also gawking at the scene in front of us.

After the brief and fantastic garbage barrel shake, the two acrobats sprang back into action. They lifted the empty barrels in unison, lowered them to the ground, and opened the tops to ensure the barrels were empty.

One of the men saw a stray piece of garbage in his barrel and plunged his head inside like a duck into water. He seized a piece of plastic wrap, slung it into the back of the truck, and slammed the lid back down.

Then both men simultaneously wheeled their barrels around, kicked the bases, and sent them careening back to their original places next to the sidewalk. The two lunged back onto the truck, and it moved forward.

The whole thing had taken about ten seconds – or maybe it was 30 or 120 – my wife and I still can’t agree on how long it lasted. It felt timeless.

Stunned Silence

I sat in awe for a moment before realizing one of the men was signaling us to drive around. My wife sat still with her mouth open.

“Drive around the truck,” I said quietly.

“What?” she said, dumbfounded.

“The guy’s signaling for you to drive around.”

“Oh, sorry,” she said, driving around the truck. All of us – even the baby – were still in a daze.

“Honey,” I said, as we drove down the street, “this is going to sound crazy, but I think God wanted us to see that.”

“You’re not crazy,” she said. “That was beautiful.”

Our rough week had suddenly turned around, thanks to two men on the back of a garbage truck.

Grace in the Garbage

I don’t understand why I now recall a brief garbage pick-up as if it actually took several minutes. I don’t understand why my hungry baby stopped eating her oatmeal to join us in gawking at the synchronized garbage dancers. I don’t understand why my wife and I drove away from a garbage truck feeling like our hearts were on fire.

What I do know is that somehow, God was in the midst of that garbage pick-up, that seeing those two men was exactly what we needed that morning. I know that His glory fills the whole earth; that His love knows no bounds; that even in the depths of woe, He is there; that in Christ, we are more than conquerors – even when we feel like losers.

And I know that God – only God – could take a garbage pick-up and use it to reveal all of that to a couple of His exhausted children.

If you’d like an email with a weekly recap of what I’ve written, click here.  You can also keep up with my latest articles (and more) on Facebook or Twitter.  This post originally appeared on April 12, 2011.


  1. Love it! How refreshing.


  2. Love this, bro!!! We should never cease to admire God's workmanship!!! I have been on a mission to celebrate each person. Everyone has something about them to be admired. I pray that God will continue to strengthen you for whatever tomorrow brings. I know that his grace is sufficient for you and Raquel.


  3. Great story!


  4. God is always revealing Himself to us when we least expect it! Love it!


  5. Dude, I really enjoyed this post…beautiful story, beautiful writing.


  6. mischievousmind

    Yes! "Wet the Leaf" is so heartbreakingly gorgeous. I listened to it while I read this, and it slipped me straight into the spirit.While you're at it, check out "Twentytwofourteen" and "The Light," also by The Album Leaf, and "Blankets of Night" by Hammock.But back to this elegant vignette: I so appreciated the portrait of the young family, all caught up in unison by the beauty of such an ostensibly ordinary thing – the beauty of this imperfect, fragile little sapling that is our mortal existence.-Chris Martinez


  7. mischievousmind

    Whoops! The song is actually called "Wet the Day" (by The Album Leaf). We made the same mistake.-Chris


  8. Great story! Thank God He can use even the most unlikely things to teach us something.


  9. How can we sing of the "glorious cross," the "wonderful cross," without displaying similar bizarre sense of awe at something staggeringly foul? The bloody surgery our souls require is scandalous yet beautiful units own way. Good Friday is either the greatest tragedy the world has ever known, or God's astounding Garbage Ballet. You be the judge.


  10. This reminds me that, whatever we do, we should do it as unto the Lord. Perhaps you are right in saying that God was there; perhaps these two men were Christians, if not, they put us to shame — as the Word exhorts us that our rightiousness should exceed that of the Pharisees.


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