Lately, I’ve been thinking about a few Julys ago when I retired after working more than 40 years.
A couple days after saying my final good-byes during a joy-filled retirement celebration, I stood in our back yard gazing at nothing noteworthy, thinking about nothing in particular, when Ron came alongside, put his long, strong arm around my shoulder and said, “Well, Sue, now that you’re retired, what do you plan on doing?”
Without considering my response, I said, “Honey, all I want to do is make compost!”
Compost is organic waste that decomposes. Composting results in valuable, nutrient-rich material called humus.
At the time, the answer I gave my husband seemed flippant. The remainder of that summer, however, composting became a potent metaphor for the previous three years—years that led me to retire earlier than most financial advisors would have advised.
During that pre-retirement season,
- I went through two major surgeries after enduring chronic pain for several years.
- Both my father and father-in-law died.
- The small department for which I worked underwent turmoil like I’d never experienced before. One colleague chose to lash out viciously at me, and I was never able to determine why. I was disappointed by choices of other friends and colleagues I’d respected deeply. In addition, I was asked to promote into a position I never sought and felt under-qualified to fill.
- After attending and serving in a church we’d loved for over 18 years, we realized the focus of the fellowship was changing in a direction we were not, and we made the painful decision to leave.
In other words, I’d dealt with lots of garbage—physically, emotionally, professionally and spiritually!
Almost every day that summer, I toted a bag of kitchen waste to our big black compost bin, sweltering on the hottest side of the house. Vegetable peelings, produce scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds—all were tossed into the bin. After securely locking the lid, I’d give it one or two sharp turns. Contents tumbled, mixing old and new refuse, which supposedly sped up the process of decomposition
When throwing in organic waste, I’d symbolically toss in an issue of soul waste from the past three years. The emotional ritual was cathartic. Before long, I began adding expressions of thanksgiving and prayers of blessing. My tired, aching soul was healing. I began imagining that just like plants in our garden would benefit from the humus being created in the compost bin, God was going to use my personal garbage for a worthwhile purpose.
Dr. Sam Rima encourages ministry leaders to engage in spiritual composting, recognizing “dark side issues and allowing God to transform them…” Dr. Rima writes, ”By practicing the discipline of spiritual composting, the Holy Spirit can transform our weaknesses into rich spiritual humus from which our most powerful and fruitful ministry will come.” 
Life is filled with painful incidents and difficult circumstances we may identify as garbage. Surely, that’s how I felt about the three years preceding my retirement. I’m so grateful God’s Spirit sparked an offhand idea in my frazzled brain that became a healing, life giving summertime ritual.
Remembering those days brings both a chuckle and utterance of gratitude.
I’m praying July 2019 will be a time of rich blessing for you and those you love…
- Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership – How to Become an Effective Leader by Confronting Potential Failures, Gary L. McIntosh and Samuel D. Rima ↑