We live with six horses. Big animals. Big appetites. An average 1000 pound horse produces approximately 9 tons of manure annually. That’s about 50 pounds daily, times six for us. We decided to deal with our massive waste management challenge by creating a spot next to our barn where we could dump and tend to our horses’ “leftovers” by composting.
Every day, we wheel loads of manure from the horse stalls and dump them into an enormous pile that spreads from west to east behind our barn. There the manure sits. Though unseen, beneath the surface of the pile, some major Iron Chef cooking occurs. Thousands of microorganisms begin breaking down the manure, turning up the heat. A shovel sunk deep into the center of the pile after a few days releases steam. It’s so cool! Well, actually, it’s so hot it could burn your hand if you plunged it into the pile! A good cooking compost pile averages between 120-130 degrees and, if not properly controlled, can reach 160+ degrees, risking spontaneous combustion. Wouldn’t that be a sight to see!
For the microorganisms to show up and survive in Nature’s Kitchen, four components are necessary. First, you need the most essential ingredient–manure. Second, you need moisture to keep the concoction cooking. Third, you need to turn the pile regularly. Fourth, you have to monitor the temperature. If the pile gets too hot, the microbes die and the composting process stops. Finally, you need time. Composted horse manure is NOT fast food. It is a gourmet meal for garden plants that takes six months to a year to complete. The finished product is worth the time and effort. Fully composted horse manure is dark, crumbly, and sweet-smelling. One would never know it came from a horse. The “black gold”, as I call it, is rich in nutrients, nourishing garden plants organically and improving the texture of all soils.
When I think about sanctification, growing into the likeness of Christ, I think about composting. There was a popular bumper sticker a few years ago with two words: S**T HAPPENS, without the asterisks. Though I do not condone coarse language, I always found that bumper sticker amusing because I thought, “Well, what else did you expect? The world is fallen. We’re blessed when things DO go well.” Without the Holy Spirit’s presence in our world, nothing but S**T would be produced. But God is green (though apolitical)! He’s into recycling and composting. He loves to turn seemingly useless garbage into valuable material. He wastes nothing. He promises that “ALL (emphasis mine) things work together for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Are all things good? No. But all things work together for good. For whom? This is important. For “those who love him.” I’m intrigued by the stipulation. Those who do not love God do not seek his purposes. Those who love God seek his purposes in everything. These are the two camps of people. Depending on where one chooses to camp, the end product of less-than-desirable realities in our lives is the difference between a worthless, smelly manure pile and well-composted, valuable “black gold.”
So, what do we do with the “manure” thrown at us in life and the “manure” we encounter inside ourselves? Due to free will God grants us, we have options. We can ignore the “manure” and do nothing. If so, the “manure” sits in our souls doing nothing worthwhile. Or, we can try to change the manure and work with it our way, which amounts to making a bigger mess because we know pitifully little about spiritual composting and have no power to “cook the pile” even if we did. Finally, we can seek God’s expertise and power in composting, cooperating with him as he takes us through the process. Here’s how it works.
God takes the worthless “waste” in our lives and piles it in a spot that we can’t ignore. It’s smelly, ugly, and attracts flies that breed more flies. Then he heats it up with a good dose of his loving conviction saying, “Let me handle this one. I know what I’m doing.” The Holy Spirit penetrates the depth of our “pile”, creating even more heat to break down every bit of waste. Just like manure piles must be turned regularly to keep the composting action going, God allows us to be churned, which can be a painful process. The churning often brings tears as we cry out from the pain and the heat of the breakdown. But our tears add the necessary moisture for the composting process to succeed. After a time, the process is complete.
Why does God allow the pain, the tears, and the breakdown from the heat and the churning? Because his sight is set on the end product and he knows there is no other way to make “black gold” than to allow us to go through such a process. In our pain, we fear the process will never end and we risk losing hope—just what our spiritual enemy desires. But God NEVER takes us through painful, transformative times without knowing the positive ending. Painful times are ALWAYS limited times due to his mercy and love. All we need to do is hold on to the rider of the white horse whose name is Faithful and True. Our Prince of Peace will carry us through, transforming us into “black gold”, and he will wipe away every tear our eyes cried in the process. Think of such things the next time you encounter a “manure pile” in your life.
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. Revelation 19:11
Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:3-4
Dedicated to Jon, my Waste Management friend.