I cleaned the duck coop yesterday.
It was a job I’d been putting off for a long time, hoping that somehow I’d escape. I’m not sure what I thought the alternative was (Maybe it would miraculously clean itself? Maybe my five-year old would do it?) but eventually, it had to be done. So when I finally found a “spare” hour, I grabbed my gloves and a pitchfork and got to work.
Straight farm talk here: I love my ducks, but they are absolutely water birds. Kept inside? They’re nasty. They spill their food. They swim in their water buckets and knock them over, making the straw bedding rot. They produce copious amounts of droppings, far more than chickens. They bury their eggs, leaving small land mines scattered around the pen. Cleaning out their coop after an entire winter is not a job for the faint-hearted.
I worked in silence for a while, letting my mind wander. With five children ages six months to ten years, quiet is a rare commodity. Eventually my meandering thoughts turned to Easter and redemption and gardens and bringing beauty out of weeds and neglect.
I’ve long thought of gardening as a picture of redemption: Jesus taking the messy, weedy, barren soil of our hearts and making it new, planting His goodness and righteousness so we can bear good fruit. It’s a beautiful picture, and it’s not completely inaccurate. But standing ankle-deep in rotten straw and duck poop, I realized that a stinking mess is a much better picture of our hearts pre-salvation.
Before Christ, my heart wasn’t a weedy (but still kind of beautiful in an untamed way) garden. It wasn’t Pinterest “shabby chic” or Instagram “overgrown garden aesthetic” (you haven’t seen a hashtag for #manurepileaesthetic yet, have you? Me neither). It was gross. Stinking. A winter’s worth of duck poop and rotten eggs kind of ugly.
Redemption didn’t look like Jesus sprinkling some nice little flower seeds. It looked like His willingness to carry all that gross, disgusting, smells-like-death on Himself.
I’m fine with using a garden as a metaphor for Jesus’ redeeming work; I’ll be doing that plenty of times in this column. I find the garden metaphor especially helpful in understanding sanctification, the process (post-salvation) of becoming more like Jesus. But let’s be honest here. A lot of weeds have some good qualities. Some have pretty flowers. Some are edible, even highly nutritious.
I need to remember that my salvation didn’t look like Jesus walking along and finding a patch of overgrown earth that had a lot of promise and needed some help. It looked like a dead, stinking mess.
Like me, Jesus had a moment of dread. My job, although hard, unpleasant work, was nothing compared to His. Imagine not just shoveling the muck, but actually becoming it. Taking it on so fully that not only the world but also your own Father turned away from you. That’s what He did.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”(2 Corinthians 5:21)
By the time I was through with my work, I was filthy. I smelled like a duck pen. I was sore and exhausted and sweaty. But the work was finished. I could rest. You know who else got to rest? The ducks.
The ducks didn’t do any of the work. I hadn’t made any of the mess.
The only reason we are able to rest is because Jesus did all the work on our behalf.
“After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”(Hebrews 1:3)
So there you have it. Our sins are like duck poop. Rejoice in the finished work of Christ today!
Photography: courtesy of the author