One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. It’s most often said when advertising a rummage sale. I’ve heard and said it often. However, I’ve always been a little uncomfortable with it – I’ve wondered what impact it has upon those purchasing the items in the sale. If my stuff is trash, does that mean the person buying it is a trashy person? I hope not – I would never mean it that way. I hope the message is that we all have different needs and view things differently. What I don’t need, you may need. What I see as useless, you may see as useful. What I see as of little value, you may see of great value. It’s all a matter of perspective. I determine what is trash and treasure in my life and you determine what it is in yours.
It occurs to me that this same principle applies to what happens to us, to how we respond to the events and circumstance of life. I pondered this recently when I read a chapter in Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s book, “Buried Treasure.”[i] He pointed out that in the Hebrew language a word spelled backwards often has the opposite meaning of the original word. For example the Hebrew word for trash is resh-peh-shin. Reverse it and you get shin-peh-resh, which is the root for the word SHaPiR which means ‘excellent’ or ‘fine’ and is the basis of the word sapphire. I find that fascinating. When I’m in the midst of a
difficult experience it looks bad, like trash. But often time tells a different story; when I later look back on it I see how it was an experience that refined, molded and taught me. The trash was really a treasure.
This changes how I view my present experiences. Is the tough time I’m going through trash or treasure? My perspective will determine how I respond. It’s now so much what happens to us that matters as it is how we respond to what happens to us. It’s not what life brings to us in her hands as it is what we bring to life in ours.
That’s one of the reasons I wrote my book on the life of Joseph.[ii] His life was full of trash – dysfunctional family, rejection, revenge, guilt, broken dreams, temptation, and self-pity. But they were mere stepping stones that took him from a pit of death to a place in a palace. When he was reconciling with his brothers – who had betrayed him – he proclaimed “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” He saw all the tough times in his life not as trash but trashy treasure.
Joseph’s life principle points to Jesus. Even He demonstrated that trash could be treasure. He died the most cruel and despised death of all – crucifixion. But when he rose from the dead He proved the trashy cross was really the treasure of salvation for all who believe.
Whatever you view as trash in your life, try reversing your thinking. It may just become a treasure. Be open to what God is doing in your life.
[i] Rabbi Daniel Lapin, Buried Treasure (Multnomah Publishers, 2001), 151f.