Looking out the window of one of my favorite coffee shops (Panera’s), a petite young employee, company baseball cap sitting low over her pigtails, is wrestling large bags of trash. The bags are almost half her size and she’s attempting to raise them high enough to drop them into the large trash container in the corner of the parking area. I feel sorry for her— the bags are big and heavy, and worse, they’re not only filled with trash (cardboard coffee cups and napkins) and uneaten food, but there’s also enough old coffee and other fluids that the lower portion of each bag is a sea of soupy, slimy goo.
Each time she lifts a bag part of it comes in contact with her apron and shirt, and each time she drops the bag over the container lip she looks at her apron and wipes her sleeves, checking for stains and traces from the smelly bags. She can see how truly gross the clear bag’s contents are; she can hear the swish of the yucky, wet mash as each bag is lifted; and she can feel the sticky moistness on parts of the bag as they come in contact with her skin. It’s a mess, but hey, it’s trash. And taking out the trash is a messy business. But it’s a business that has to be done. The alternative would be stacks of rotting, leaking, smelly trash bags in some corner of the kitchen where my tasty pastries and lip smacking salads are being made— a very un-tasty prospect.
On one hand I’m sorry the petite young employee has such an undesirable task; on the other hand I’m really glad she’s doing it. And I’m glad there’s a trash service that picks up the smelly, sticky, yucky contents of each day’s refuse. I’m also thankful for the landfill north of town that buries the growingly disgusting contents of each container and each bag under mountains of other refuse and dirt— a mountain rising in height as our corporate waste is buried under its brown covering. Unlike Carl Sandburg’s green grass covering the decaying corpses of those fallen in battle*, there’s no verdant covering on this mountain of decaying waste. Even without such a welcome covering, the brown hill still gives me a feeling of thankfulness. I’m thankful there’s a place where our trash and waste can be put so that the rest of our lives are free of the unhealthy, unwholesome clutter.
God is in the trash business too. But the refuse He deals with is much more repugnant that that which my dainty miss was handling.
Christians are called to live clean, transformed lives, but we still have the same yucky sin-producing nature our non-Christian neighbors have. We have messy, gooey areas of old and deficient thoughts and practices; we have sticky sins we find difficult to free ourselves from. We have the smell of putrid decay in areas of our lives in which we’ve let moral trash accumulate. It’s a mess, and sin always is.
I am so thankful there’s a place I can take my moral rubbish. I’m so relieved my sins don’t have to accumulate in the corners of my life embarrassing me and creating an odious barrier to God and to others getting close.
The hill my sins find adequate covering in isn’t grassy green and lovely. It’s a rocky, messy, bloody, awful, and yet glorious place. The hill called Calvary, or Golgotha, where the Son of God took on Himself all my indecent, obscene, repulsive, and repugnant sins isn’t pretty, but dealing with sin never is. And when God looks down on that hill, piled high with not just my sins, but also the sins of the world, He doesn’t see stately green swards. But God does see a blood red covering—an atonement adequate to blot out the worst of sins and save the worst of sinners.
And when I see, or smell, the trash in my life, or someone gives me a friendly, or even a not so friendly notice that my trash is becoming a nuisance, I get to take out the trash. I GET to take it out. Why wouldn’t I? I confess my sins and Jesus washes me spotless and clean again, my sins being covered by His all-sufficient blood. And I get to go back to enjoying the Lord, and family and friends and coffee and pastries, and all those good things God richly provides.
God the Son was willing to take the role of cosmic trash man on Himself. Jesus was willing to take the moral refuse of our lives in order to free us from the corruption that would otherwise keep us from the Father of life and from the joy we can share in each other— shouldn’t we be willing to take out our trash?
1 John 1:8-9 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
*Carl Sandburg’s poem, Grass