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Monday, August 24, 2009

Tin Can Beach

And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions. Colossians 2:13 (New American Standard Bible)

Growing up in southern California in the 1950s I got to spend a lot of time at the beaches along the coast. There was one beach that was called Tin Can Beach by the locals. The reason it was called that is it had received the trash, broken bottles, tin cans and other assorted debris over the years from people who went to spend a day at the seashore. The standard operating procedure for trash before Woodsy Owl’s “Give a hoot-don’t pollute” campaign was when you were done with it toss it on the ground (or the sand). Tin Can Beach was one of the filthiest public places I can recall ever seeing. As the new decade of the 1960s came in the City of Huntington Beach cared enough to clean up Tin Can. Over a few months all the trash and rusted tin cans were cleaned up and the beach was given a clean and manicured look. It even got a new name-Bolsa Chica State Beach. Imagine how shocked I was when I first saw the new face of this beach. It was clean. It was neat. As a teenager I spent a lot of hour’s enjoying the new beach forgetting how dirty it had been at one time.

I’ve been thinking about Tin Can and how dirty and messy it got through years of neglect. Standing on that stretch of shoreline we all thought it was beyond redemption and too far gone to be worth doing anything with. It would be forever a beach full of rusted tin cans. We were like that once and many people who saw us said “That guy (or gal) is too far gone and dirty for God to change.” Or the classic; “You need to clean up your act before God will consider being your friend.” Uh-huh, like Tin Can Beach could have cleaned itself up. If that had been the case it never would have happened. A lot like us. It took concerned and loving hands to clean up Tin Can and it took concerned and loving Hands to clean us up. We didn’t have to go to God first because He loved us first and approached us with the intent to clean up our soiled lives through His redemptive plan that involved His Son Jesus Christ. Tin Can Beach could not have gone to the city council and asked to be cleaned up. The city sought to restore this stretch of California shoreline. In the same way the initial offer of human restoration was made by God to us and not by us. What a glorious saga this story interweaves throughout the Old and New Testaments. For while we were as dirty and foul as Tin Can Beach Christ died for us (Romans 5:10).

It’s good to recall Tin Can at times. It was something that was dirtied beyond belief yet still loved and wanted. The thing about Tin Can is that after it was cleaned up and given a new name the City of Huntington Beach continues to keep it in a continual state of care. If people are willing to clean up such a mess and continue to care for it how much more is Christ willing to save us from our bad choices and by His power to keep us clean and sanctified? God saw us before we were born and knew what the condition of our own shoreline would be, yet He came to us in our dirtiest state because He first loved us and cleaned up our lives when we called on the name of Christ for help. Dirty beyond belief and then cleaned with great relief. The vast Pacific rolls its breakers upon a clean beach in southern California. So Christ has done for us in cleaning up our own Tin Cans. And coming from that vast ocean of His love to us is wave upon wave of astounding grace.