Actually, he was in a trash dumpster. I was the property manager and had called out to him to please come out.
The stranger vaulted pretty impressively out of the dumpster. “Hi, my name is Clay and I’m a ‘canner.’”
He smiled as he spoke, revealing missing teeth. His pleasant face was weathered by the elements and life. Next to the dumpster stood an old bicycle bearing a few large pieces of plastic bursting with aluminum cans.
I explained to Clay that residents on our property had contacted me out of concern for personal information or items they had thrown away. To have someone retrieving such things from the trash was unsettling.
Clay’s eyes didn’t turn. In a pleading voice he softly replied, “I’m just a canner. This is how I make my money. I’m not a drinker; I just get cans. I won’t take anything else.”
I believed him.
In the ensuing months I would glimpse Clay in the neighborhood. He usually had a load of bagged cans carefully balanced on a homemade bracket behind his bike seat. He would smile warmly and greet me.
One day I asked, “Do you drink coffee, Clay?”
“Yes. I do.”
He soon became a frequent guest at my apartment where we would spend time talking about his life and what led him to become a “canner.” He had been married once and had a son who lived with his ex-wife.
Clay lived in a small shed behind his parents’ house. It wasn’t fancy but had electricity and a small bathroom with sink and toilet. He had privacy and lived what he called a “simple life.”
During our conversations, I talked with Clay about my faith in Jesus. He would change the subject.
One early evening as I sat on my balcony, I heard the familiar rummaging coming from a dumpster in the parking lot. Clay soon spotted me and within a few minutes was sitting at my dining room table dipping a cookie into his coffee.
“Clay, could you help me out?” I asked.
“Sure, what is it?”
I explained I met weekly with a small group of people for Bible study and had been learning to share the truth of the gospel from the group leader. I told him I would like to practice doing this with him if he would allow me to.
“Yeah, that’s okay,” said Clay, taking another sip of his coffee.
I intended just to speak about Scripture verses that in a clear way showed the problem of human sin and the solution for this through Jesus so we could be reconciled to God. I asked Clay a few questions about his spiritual condition and offered the viewpoint from the Scriptures of our actual condition and the consequences.
I could see in Clay’s eyes that this no longer was “practice.” I silently prayed for God to reveal the truth of the gospel to him.
I was taken back when suddenly Clay jumped to his feet as if to flee. “What are you telling me this for?!”
“Well, Clay, you said I could practice, didn’t you?”
Almost immediately Clay sat back down, with tears rolling down his cheeks. Within a few minutes, he was calling out to God for forgiveness of sin and confessing that He believed in Jesus as the only way to have eternal life.
Clay was no different from me and millions of others who are unaware of our perilous spiritual condition until God’s Spirit awakens our souls to the truth within Scripture. By His grace and through faith sins are forgiven and eternal life is found. This truth is for everyone: “to the Jew first and also the Gentile.”
What about you? Are you “in the dumpster” spiritually, or have you experienced peace with God through faith in Jesus’ death in your place?
“Practice makes perfect” in many aspects of life but does nothing to remedy our sinful condition. Human effort cannot satisfy God’s righteous requirements. Those who believe in Jesus are “made perfect” in God’s sight by faith.
If you have questions, please contact us today. We would love to share with you the good news of the Messiah’s perfect sacrifice and how you, too, can know the “peace of God that surpasses all understanding.”