When they had all had enough to eat, [Jesus] said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” (John 6:12)
In your house somewhere, there’s probably one of those things. Although it looks like any other scribbled-up notebook or faded picture or crinkle-edged envelope, you know better. You know better because there’s a ton or two of memories tied around that thing. You avoid it for years because you don’t have time (or courage) to drag all that weight back out. It’s best left dusty and dormant. You tell yourself you’ve forgotten. You don’t really believe that, but it’s what you tell yourself.
Then, that thing finds you. Okay, so technically you found it while you were cleaning or trying to decide what to pitch out from your overstuffed closet. But whatever the case, it’s there in your hand. You plop down in the floor and place it on your lap. Your fingers smooth down the edges. Maybe your gut tightens up a bit.
Once again—just like the last time you “found” it—the I-was-a-fool song zips into your head. It’s a song that only has one verse, but that verse plays over and over. Usually, you turn the melody into a prayer that goes something like this:
God, what was I thinking? How could I not see? How could I have done that? Why didn’t I say something?
Waste—eventually, it all comes down to that. While tracing pencil indentions with your fingers or taking in the smooth surface of the photo, you wonder how many years you wasted. What mighty things you might have done. At least, it seems like that now.
But there’s another song that comes, too, and that one has many verses and many versions. One of the best sounds like this:
You were dead because you lost sight of Christ. But He never lost sight of you. Right when you needed it most, God made those nail-pierced wrists very real to you, and it crushed you to know what shame had been hammered to the cross—all our regret-filled yesterdays. (Colossians 2:13-14, paraphrase)
And if you listen to that song (or dozens more like it), you won’t fear that tattered thing in your hands, that memento too heavy to keep close by. Instead, you’ll see how God never wastes anything. Not busted up plans, not years of prodigal living, and certainly not you. Instead, He picks them up—when He picks you up—and teaches you how to talk about His can’t-believe-it’s-possible grace.