In our culture, we’re quick to cast off what’s broken. But thankfully, God doesn’t think that way.

BY CARYN RIVADENEIRA

On this day, all answers point to yes. My kids are out of luck, although I don’t need their help (as I did the day I curb-picked my dresser with the terrific spindles). No, this tiny half-moon end table—dulled wood with great legs—that I’m saving from a landfill can be snagged off the curb with one quick pop of the trunk and a swift sweep of my arm.
“No one even saw,” I tell the kids as I shut my door and click my seat belt. “And it’s going to be great next to the wingback.”
My kids roll their eyes and shake their heads at me, their embarrassing garbage-picking mom. But whatever. Though they don’t appreciate it now, I’m teaching them essential life lessons through these curbside rescue operations.
I know because I once learned them myself.
Growing up, I attended a church filled with garbagemen (I’m not being sexist: I cannot think of one single garbagewoman in my church.) That being said, my best friend’s dad took us out on his garbage truck for one of the best nights I’ve ever spent in Chicago. Go figure.
In my suburban church, multiple families owned garbage companies; dads worked exhausting early-morning shifts, hauling trash. And it seemed all of the kids I knew had a story of great “finds” their dads had made: a tossed-out sack of change, “perfectly good” office supplies and reams of paper, “barely expired” canned goods, a beautiful—if wobbly—bookshelf. These were brought home, used, and bragged about.
Something sunk in about thrift, about conservation, about living in a home filled with things that tell stories, and about the heart of God.
As a kid, I could’ve thrown up. Just the idea of someone else’s trash in my home! Shiver.
And yet somehow, somewhere along the line, something sunk in. Because through their finds, these families showed me something about thrift, about conservation, about living in a home filled with things that tell stories, and about the heart of God.
If truth be told, I own only a few pieces of curb-found furniture. The rest of my home is furnished with the cast-off and mismatched—pieces handed down through generations or plucked from aunts’ basements and parents’ attics. I love the stories they tell of family lore, the memories—good and bad—they conjure. I love that my kids sit down to eat at the same table their dad used as a boy. And I love that I line up books on shelves that once housed my grandmother’s precious knickknacks, gathered from her travels. Just having these in my house ensures conversations about those who’ve come and gone before.
But I must confess: There’s just something different, something special about the dresser, that little table, the bookshelves, that weird rickety chair, and the piano I’ve saved from the trash. Because even though they inspire funny stories of their own (mostly of humiliating my kids), in reality, the tales they tell are ones of rescue and redemption, of being lost and found, of being cast out and then welcomed in. And bar none, these are my favorite kinds of stories.
The essence of thrift and conservation is more than simply “waste not, want not” but instead speaks of restoration and welcome.
Probably because it’s also my story—the story of all of us, really, who’ve been lost and found, who’ve been rescued and redeemed. And this is where it all meets the heart of God—a God who specializes in finding and redeeming the rejected and welcoming them in.
So, my kids won’t know what it is to have a matching set of furniture. Perhaps one day they’ll rebel by way of a huge IKEA spending spree where they set up their homes with the new and color-coordinated. But I hope not. I hope that even as I humiliate them by slowing down to admire spindles, or wonder if we have room for one more bookshelf (and who doesn’t?), something is sinking in. Something, in fact, that goes beyond furniture and straight to the heart: that the essence of thrift and conservation is more than simply “waste not, want not” but instead speaks of restoration and welcome. I hope they see that when we reuse and recycle, we mirror a God who, as my pastor recently said, is not about “all new things, but all things new.” (See Rev. 21:5.) And when we welcome the cast-off and mismatched, we echo a Jesus who did the same with a band of disciples and followers—and who does the same for us. After all, I remember how God once slowed His car down to spy us, sitting lonely and ragged on some curb of life. Then, without even asking one question about our worth or usefulness, He reached out a hand and brought us home.