As I’m writing this, I just came inside from organizing our garbage in the garage into bags. For those who aren’t local, here in Oshawa, Ontario, the waste management department doesn’t take your garbage in a can. Instead, you consolidate as much garbage as you can into large black garbage bags and plop them on the curb. It’s an annoying, often stinky task at our house (hello, dirty diapers!) - but a necessary one.
Today, though, I found it extra annoying. Why? We bought the wrong garbage bags. (I know, I know, first world problems...) Our family is a staunch cinch-sack family. That simple tie that cinches the garbage bag to completely close, keeps the waste in, and ties like a shoelace - it’s become a necessity for us. And I know we’re not alone. A few months ago, a tweet from a moderately-famous podcast host went viral when he complained about his wife buying the non-cinch-sacks for their garbage. I felt his pain. Just moments ago, I was out in the garage, fumbling with a probably-too-full black garbage bag with nothing but little floppy flaps of plastic at the top, trying to tie it shut and keep the dirty diapers from spilling all over our garage floor.
Cinch-sack garbage bags. Such a simple innovation that serves to spoil us - something that we don’t even think about until, like me, you’re stuck with the lesser alternative.
Still, I haven’t put much thought into the garbage bags we choose until we got the wrong ones. It’s a bit of a storage thing to focus my thoughts on. But what’s perhaps even stranger to imagine, is that the cinch-sack garbage bag was once a controversial innovation. Years ago, the Hefty company was rumoured to be working in a new kind of garbage bag that would change the garbage disposal game: the cinch sack. And for those in the know, this was a crazy idea. It was laughable. No one could imagine how Hefty would manufacture these bags (imagine re-stringing the drawstring on your favourite hoodie or sweatpants...100 times per minute), and even if they could, who would buy them? But the folks at good ol’ Hefty knew what was needed. They’d seen how their customers fumbled with those flimsy little flaps of plastic, powerless to keep the odours and garbage locked in their bags. They could see the end result before it even existed; they knew they were on to something, they knew people would like it, and they knew it would become a ubiquitous item on which people like me would come to rely. Now, so many years later, the cinch-sack garbage bag is a convenience that we use daily, without giving it so much as a moment’s thought. It’s become so normal, so much a part of our everyday lives, that we don’t even notice it until it’s missing - much less think of the process of creating it.
Innovations happen around us all the time. Some of them are earth-shattering, some of them are simple - but they all affect our lives in some way. Think of the iPhone. In 2007, Steve Jobs announced the upcoming release of a new phone, which could take pictures, play music, text, call, and so much more. It was a new little computer to carry in your pocket. And for many of us, the idea was laughable. I remember my 2007 self saying, a note of haughty disdain in my voice, that nobody would us a phone like that. We have cameras already, we have MP3 players already...why spend so much money for a device that does things we already can do? Fast forward to 2018 and I don’t know how to do life without my iPhone.
Innovations like the iPhone are a big deal. They changed the way we communicate, the way we interact with the world, the way we access information, even the way our brains function. The cinch-sack garbage bag, though - that was an innovation that was met with the same sorts of criticism, pushed forward, and found life-changing success in a very quiet, mundane way.
My journey of church planting often feels like the journey towards cinch-sack garbage bags. What we’re doing is simple, but it’s new. We’re not a new iPhone. We’re probably not going to alter the way our brains function, or the way the whole world accesses new information. But what we’re doing is part of a movement that is slowly, quietly changing the way faith functions in our every day lives. And I fully believe that someday the way we are doing church - this quiet, relationship-oriented partnership with God’s mission - will be the everyday reality to the church in the future. I hope that some day, joining with God’s mission won’t be a new idea. I hope it won’t be strange to some - or even controversial. I hope we’ll go about it without much thought, letting it be a consistent, everyday choice.
Isaiah 43:19 says, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” As we enter into 2019, God is, indeed, doing a new thing in Ecclesia. I’ll share more about some upcoming changes and new initiatives in the next few weeks - but God is most certainly doing something new. We’re praying we might just be living into the next cinch-sack garbage bag.