I walked into the kitchen and bee-lined for the black trashcan. I was holding several items that needed to be thrown away—a crumbled up water bottle, a Barbie package my daughter needed to dispose of, and some old receipts I found at the bottom of my purse. I opened the lid and to my dismay the trash was full. So what did I do? You guessed it. I shoved my newly trash items in the full trashcan. When it didn’t seem to budge, I just kept on shoving. I mean the trash was running the next morning, so I wanted to fill it to the brim before taking it out.
Let’s talk trash.
I know I’m not the only one who shoves so much trash in the can before taking it out. Disclaimer: I have a self-diagnosed cleaning disorder, so my trash may be filled to the top of the can, but it’s not overflowing to the floor. And it doesn’t stink. So it’s fine, right?
You can deny it all you want—but I know you do this too. It seems to be human nature to get away with piling as much trash up as we can before taking it out.
Why do we do this?
Is it laziness? Do we want to conserve as many trash bags as possible? For me, at times it turns into a mental game. How much can I get in the bag before I take it out? Then, I can have a fresh bag in the trashcan for as long as possible with no trash living in it. I’m sure I sound a level of neurotic right now. But, don’t you feel satisfied when the trash is finally taken out and you have the fresh bag residing around the can, untouched, so fresh, exuding purity and, cleanliness?
If I’m this obsessed with the trash in the can, how much more should I be concerned with the trash that pollutes my spiritual life?
Can we go there?
Let’s keep talking trash.
You can’t see every item in the can making up the trash. Not every item dispels an odor. But we know it is trash because it was discarded. Not everyone can see the trash (aka sin) polluting our spiritual lives. Not every sin dispels an offensive odor that all those around us could call garbage in our lives. No, no… sin can appear much more innocent than that. It fact, instead of looking like trash, it can resemble treasure or success in the eyes of the world. But as Christ followers we need to be bold enough to call out the sin in our own lives, no matter how innocent it appears at first or no matter how justified our flesh feels in our sin.
Imagine living in a garbage can. Imagine the disgust. Imagine the filth, the odor, the rodents, and the creepy crawlies living with you. Imagine death overcoming you because you couldn’t survive living in the trash. It makes you shudder, doesn’t it? That is what sin is to our spiritual life. For my Christ-following readers—you may be thinking that’s not you. In a prideful moment, I’d say the same, but I’d be lying. With entering a new year less than twelve hours ago, I’m desperately craving transparency and authenticity in my sanctification journey with my Savior.
If you’re on my friend’s list on social media—you may have seen my highlight reel of life throughout this last year. While those highlights are truth and I’ve no doubt experienced an abundance of blessings… Like many of you, I’ve also experienced a myriad of minor valleys. Though minor, the valleys left me feeling less than. It led me to act in anger and frustration. My heart experienced a level of hardening, and I fought against rebelling in certain areas. I secretly questioned the sovereignty of God through selfish temper tantrums. I questioned my visibility and value from those around me. Not one of the above reflected the image of my Savior. So, I’ll call it what it was—sin.
But, no one knew these particular sins I failed to surrender in my own power this year.
My sin was quieter than the drug addict down the street. My sin wasn’t harming anyone like the murderer in the big city. In my un-surrendered and let’s be honest, un-repented sin—I was still loving toward my family, I still showed up at church, I still worshipped my God—but it was there. Like the trash piled in the trashcan wasn’t really a big deal because it wasn’t overflowing to the floor and it didn’t really stink—my flesh wanted to argue that my sin wasn’t really that big of a deal either because it wasn’t visible to anyone in my life or truly affected others. So, I just kept shoving more anger down and my heart got a little more hardened and no one knew.
It’s fine. It’s fine. Everything’s fine.
Until it’s not.
Until you go to take the trash out (that wasn’t that bad) and the trash bag rips, expelling trash all over the floor. Now everyone can see all the hidden trash. I bet hidden odors even erupt through the air. There’s no hiding all of the trash now.
The Holy Spirit is continually urging me away from my sinful tendencies. This year, I was confronted with a side of myself that scares me. I can see how much pride and anger are lurking in me. It’s been there for thirty-three years, no doubt, but God used an uncharted situation in my life this year, to dig it out. Though, I’ve allowed sin to raid my thoughts and secret emotions this year—no more. With the help of the Holy Spirit, I vow to surrender all that doesn’t reflect Christ and continually take the trash out—dumping away the darkness that fogs my thoughts and attempts to steer my emotions toward sinful action. My prayer is—you will do the same…over and over and over…until we are perfected with Christ in glory.
As Christ-follower’s, we are called to be different. Our thoughts are supposed to be different than the world’s thoughts. We are called to react to situations differently. We don’t look like the lost world around us. Just as the Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians, “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:17-24 ESV).
I pray you no longer walk in the futility of your mind. I pray you are no longer darkened in your understanding. I pray you are no longer alienated from the life of God.
Let’s not keep shoving down the trash from 2022.
2023—New Year—Same Jesus.
Don’t forget to take the trash out.
I Trust my God. I Trust my God. I Trust my God.