Gum Wall

In our walk with the Lord, there are times when we are in the trenches, keeping our heads down, working hard, and doing the best we can. Each time we think we’re about to catch a break, something happens and we find ourselves back down in the muck. We  just keep on keeping on. And we just keep praying and doing what God has for us. But after awhile, does it ever feel like Life has chewed us up and spit us out?

Not God. Never God.

But Life?

Friend, I’m feeling ya. I’ve been there. There are times and seasons that are just really tough.

IMG_9841There’s a place in Seattle close to the waterfront off of Pike Place Market. It’s just past the Information Booth, a sharp turn down a steep cobblestoned street only wide enough for one car. As the road veers to the left, suddenly, it appears.

You see the Gum Wall.

The first view of the Gum Wall as you come around the corner…

It’s a somewhat horrifying and fascinating experience–a wall of chewed-up gum. Consider the number of microorganisms that reside inside of the human mouth: 100 million organisms per milliliter, representing as many as 190 different species of viruses and bacteria (Read more).

You and I, my dirty-mouthed friend, have possibly one of the filthiest and most dangerous bites there is to mankind. And all that ooey-gooey nastiness is sitting on a wall on pieces of synthetic and natural polymers next to thousands of other bits of saliva and such.

The microbiologist in me wants to wretch.

The city of Seattle steam-cleaned the entire area and scraped off all the Orbit, Trident, Big Red, Juicy Fruit and Hubba Bubba, but within days, the place was covered all over again.

The Gum Wall is here to stay.

Mario and the Power Star make me smile. Is that a koopa or Yoshi?

You know, Job is a guy in the Bible who is just doing what he was supposed to be doing in life. He loves God and honors Him (and BTW, God thinks Job is pretty amazing, too). He is living his life and being productive until ONE DAY.

That ONE DAY is a disaster.

And it isn’t just one thing that happens…he loses everything in one day. Servants bring three separate reports of the loss. His livelihood, his children–everything is destroyed. And if that isn’t bad enough, the hits keep a-coming.

Later, he also loses his health and ends up covered in painful sores from head to foot. It’s so bad he takes to scraping the open wounds with pottery as he sits among the ashes. But he keeps his focus on God.

It gets worse.

His wife tells him to curse God and die. But Job refuses to speak against his God.

The story of Job spreads wide and far. Friends come and after seven days of sitting shiva beside Job in silence, they begin to ask Job what secret sin he has, wondering aloud what it is that Job has done to make God so upset.

Why do we have a morbid fascination with other people’s disasters?

At this point, Job has GOT to be feeling like he is chewed up and spit out.

Who started this crazy idea of a Gum Wall? I have no idea but it’s clear that it resounds with many people, so much so that it’s become a big tourist attraction. The little market on the corner across from the Information Booth even posts a sign saying “We Sell Gum.” I’m betting that sales have exponentiated since the birth of the Gum Wall.

Little B, don’t get your hair too close!

My tween daughter, when we asked what she wanted to see most in Seattle, didn’t mention the Space Needle, the original Pike Place Starbucks, Puget Sound, or the Museum of Pop Art. No, she wanted to visit the Gum Wall.

Tons of people walk down and away from the flashy fishmongers tossing their trout and flower vendors creating bouquets of beauty to get a gander at this intriguing piece of manmade group art. People want to put their mark on the wall, too, and be a tiny part of something much bigger.

For as nauseating as this artwork seems when I think about it in my brain, visually, it’s actually beautiful. Individually, the pieces of gum are just chewed up and spit out and should be meant for trash. But once they are stuck together on the canvas of the building, they become like a French Impressionist painting, something more significant than what the individual piece represents.

And you know something? It’s kind of pretty. A once-dingy and dark wall that no one ever visited now is vibrant and colorful and flourishing with people taking selfies, videos and family photos. It’s a place for community, to stick yourself into the picture.

Little Miss making her mark.

Sometimes we have no reason why things happen. Job never received an answer for why everything went south in his life at that point. But he held on, attempting to defend himself against these friends, and God speaks after 37 chapters and clears everything up–but He never gives a reason for Job’s troubles.

The Book of Job is source of hope for many people who have suffered throughout the ages. It tells us to HOLD ON. The end of the book tells us that out of Job’s suffering, God blessed him even more than he did before that ONE DAY.

Even in all the mess, in all the suffering–through wildfires and hurricanes and concert shootings–we can find snippets of beauty when we are part of the Kingdom of God.

Our suffering is not for nothing. Christ’s suffering certainly wasn’t…His suffering became the most precious work of beautiful art that mankind has and will ever see.

Verses for Encouragement:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 1 Corinthians 1:3-4 NIV

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” 1 Peter 5:10 NIV

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3-4 NIV

Friends, what verses do you turn to when you are needing encouragement? SHARE in the comments below for others to read.