“La Basurera.” That was my nickname in Costa Rica when I was nineteen – “The Trash Can.”
The nickname was solidified during our two-month outreach to Colombia and Venezuela. As the only “gringa” (American girl) in the group, I was the farthest from home, yet surprisingly it was my Costa Rican teammates who seemed to experience the most culture shock. They groaned about how much they missed their staples of “gallo pinto” (black beans and rice) and corn tortillas. And they struggled to finish the fish soup and baked plantains in the homes we visited.
That’s where “La Basurera” came in. In order not to offend, my teammates would politely nibble at their food until the hosts left the room. Then the undesired morsels would be discreetly piled onto MY plate, and I would dutifully polish off as much as I could before our hosts returned. Though my stomach protested at the mistreatment, I forced myself to eat far more than I should, considering it my duty to cover for my teammates.
However, over time, I started to become resentful towards my teammates and frustrated at myself. I fell into the “martyr syndrome” – sacrificing my own needs for others, so that people would applaud my noble efforts. The desire for others’ approval became more important to me than my own physical well-being.
Yet I don’t need to remain stuck in that unhealthy cycle of guilt, condemnation, and regret. Jesus says, “I no longer call you servants… instead I have called you friends” (John 15:15, NIV). Servants act out of duty and obligation. Friends act out of love and a free will.
So the next time I started feeling guilty about not eating every crumb of my meal, or realized that I was forcing myself to finish others’ leftovers, I began to evaluate my motivation. Am I doing this because I want to do it? Because I need to do it? Or am I trying to be the martyr? I don’t have to be “La Basurera” anymore. Even if I don’t completely clean my plate, Jesus will not condemn me. He is more interested in the state of my heart than the state of the food on my plate.
“Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.” (I John 3:20, NLT)