We have a trashcan under our kitchen sink. It's an odd size in the fact that small garbage bags are too small and "kitchen size" bags are, well, too large. While we've opted to use the latter, the reality is that even when the trashcan is full, there is still room in the bag. So, we've gotten in the habit of pulling the partially filled bag out and resting it in the corner until we top it off with the trash from the other small receptacles around the house.
I must confess, however, that sometimes the bag may sit for a couple of days. And though I see it nestled in the corner and think, "I should take out the trash," it usually doesn't happen until it is absolutely necessary.
One Friday morning, as I sat at our dining room table, I noticed sunbeams piercing through our window, landing directly on a very full bag of trash. Admiring the ethereal glow in the early morning light, I thought, "That is really cool," grabbed my phone, and took a picture of it. When I left for work, though taking a second admiring glance at the trash now immortalized on my iPhone, I still did not take out the trash.
After experiencing what I would over-dramatically describe as a "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day" (thank you, Judith Viorst, for the vocabulary), taking out the trash was definitely not on my to-do list when I got home. Instead, I grabbed a handful of peanut-butter pretzel nuggets and a glass of iced green tea and plopped down on the living room chair. I managed to ignore the bag for the entire evening. That is until I caught the edge of the bag with my foot as I passed by it on the way to bed. Pushing it back in place, I may or may not have muttered something that was contrary to my normal wisdom that "inanimate objects can't be stupid."
When I woke up Saturday morning and came toward the kitchen, I discovered that the sun was once again beaming through the dining room window. Rounding the corner, there sat the trash bag... basking in the morning glory. Perhaps it was divine intervention to prevent me from resurrecting my grumpiness, but in the quietness of that moment, the Holy Spirit whispered, "Son, it's time to take out the trash."
Staring at the Hefty Two-Ply Leaning Tower of Pisa, I grabbed the red plastic handles and tied up the bag. Lifting it up, I symbolically raised my heart to the Lord, offering it in similar surrender. Carrying it out the front door, down the steps, and across the driveway, I confessed my crappy attitude, my resentment of circumstances, and my unwillingness to forgive.
Heaving up the lid with one hand, I released the bag into the Rubbermaid abyss with the other. The familiar "thud" as the bag hit the bottom offered an odd sense of reassurance that I had indeed released all of my accumulated "stuff." Exhaling deeply as the cover slapped back down, I thanked God for the assurance of forgiveness. I bounded up the front steps with a new lightness in my step, inhaling and thanking God for fresh, empowering grace that frees me to become all that God sees when He looks at me [Graham Cooke].
Reflecting on that experience, I was mindful of my seeming penchant for both accumulating and accommodating trash. Days can pass as I justify my spiritual neglect with busyness while trash collects in the corner of my soul. And while I can acknowledge its presence each time I see it... still it remains. In fact, sunbeams can burst through the window highlighting the trash with a golden glow, and instead of taking it out, I forever enshrine it on my iPhone. Ugh. Can you relate?
If you do, perhaps, beloved, it's time to take out the trash. You know it's there. You've acknowledged it. You've accommodated it and you've gotten irritated when you've tripped over it. When it's nearly dumped over by sheer volume, you have straightened it and when it has glistened in the sunshine of self-righteousness, you have admired it. Still tracking with me?
If you are, may I respectfully pose the question that Elijah courageously asked in I Kings 18:21? "How long will you hobble back and forth between two opinions?" [CEB]. The Psalmist said, "When I refused to admit my wrongs, I was miserable, moaning and complaining all day long so that even my bones felt brittle. Day and night, Your hand kept pressing on me. My strength dried up like water in the summer heat; You wore me down."
It's time, beloved.
When you finally make that decision to take out the trash, I believe the testimony of the Psalmist will become yours. "When I finally saw my own lies, I owned up to my sins before You, and I did not try to hide my evil deeds from You. I said to myself, "I'll admit all my sins to the Eternal," and You lifted and carried away the guilt of my sin" [Psalm 32:3-6 VOICE]. Less eloquently put, "Then I let it all out; I said, "I'll come clean about my failures to God." Suddenly the pressure was gone - my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared" [MSG]. Selah.
I can testify that in my own faith journey, taking out the trash has become an ongoing spiritual practice as I seek to learn to "live freely and lightly" in "unforced rhythms of grace" [Matthew 11:28-30]. Each time I physically make that trip, I am learning to offer space for the Holy Spirit to reveal any lesser things than God's best that have accumulated in the corner of my heart and my mind. And... I am discovering the joy of not waiting until the bag is full.
Why is all of this so vital? Because the reality is that while we are learning to abide in Christ and to walk in relational wholeness with others, trash happens. And what we do with it will make all the difference. For indeed, "The Eternal is compassionate and merciful. When we cross all the lines, He is patient with us. When we struggle against Him, He lovingly stays with us - changing, convicting, prodding;" [Psalm 103:8 VOICE] and I would add, "...and inviting us to take out the trash." So, you want to... now will you?
As a starting place, why not take some time and listen to this prayer in song. Allow it to become a springboard for your own heart response to God's invitation.
"I want fellowship uninterrupted. I want all of my heart to be Yours.
'Cause it's true, nothing is right without You.
All I desire is You. To spend every moment with You.
Teach me how to pray without ceasing.
Teach me how to follow your lead.
Let my eyes be always locked in Your gaze.
Nothing compares to Your friendship.
Every day I'll walk with You, Lord,
and my heart will safely rest in Your grace"
[Fellowship Uninterrupted, Christen Ball and Galen Crew]
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