Growing up, I wanted to be a garbage truck man. Not a garbage truck driver mind you. THE MAN. The one hanging on for dear life on the rear of the trash dispenser truck as it perilously weaves in and out of neighborhoods. Like the Indiana Jones of city workers. The man who hops off when the truck stops and heaves buckets of mysterious waste into the mouth of a massive trash transformer.
When I was eight years old my dad would ask me.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Some kids say Astronaut. Or Michael Jordan. Or President.
I said half jokingly (I was a sarcastic turd back then too), “A Garbage Truck Man.”
And he would say without missing a beat, “Be the best garbage truck man you can be then.”
Even if I was being a bit tongue in cheek, there was a curious draw to that ancient occupation. The risk of falling off into oncoming traffic any moment. The adventure of the open road ever winding before you. The weighty obligation of rummaging through a whole city’s secret junk. The wind and sun and elements falling on your face and running through your hair.
We had a basketball goal at the end of our neighborhood cul de sac. If we were playing a pickup game the Garbage truck man would sometimes stop a moment and substitute himself in. We’d feed him the rock and he’d drive the lane and throw down a highlight reel dunk. With his jeans and work boots on. And then he’d walk away and hop back on his truck. Like a boss. It was only a 9 foot goal but that was big deal to 9 year olds.
I’ve been a public high school educator and coach for five years now.
I enjoy it.
That being said, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.
It’s easy to get caught in the perilous mental trap that conflates who we are with what we do. Success is found in titles, numbers, grades, stats, and bank accounts. We find our worth in our works. This is our born default, and if we’re not careful, our every morning default. “I do this = I am this” is the modern equation of personal identity.
The gospel offers a totally different approach to our fallen math.
Christ did this with his person and work, and based only that, we are now beloved adopted children. Our highest identity is purchased by another. What He did makes us who we are. Our doing was no variable in the equation. At all.
He did this=I am this now. It’s simple beautiful math.
Who knows: I may be an educator, astronaut, coach, doctor, or garbage truck man when I grow up.
Doesn’t really matter.
I know what He’s done.
I know who I am.