Using her right hip to hold open the refrigerator door and her left arm to secure the monstrous bag of grime, Courtney added plastic containers of molded food and a carton of cracked eggs to the pile. With an empty cereal box she smashed the garbage as far down as it would go, somehow stretched the plastic red handles into a knot, and schlepped the bag she referred to as “Jabba the Junk” toward the back door.
The screech of the garbage truck alerted her that Billy, the truck’s driver, approached her curb. Leaving the bag behind she raced out screaming, “Billy, wait, I’m coming, I’m coming.”
“I’ll be super quick, Billy. Promise.”
The screen door slammed behind her and she made a second attempt to drag “Jabba” to the door. As she dragged, Jabba split, first at the bottom, and then at the sides until Courtney found herself surrounded by trash.
Three houses down from Courtney’s home, Dana Kannon jogged into her living room, monitored her pulse, and gulped from her water bottle before sprinting upstairs for her morning shower. Dana’s trash bags, along with the two containers of recyclables, were taken out that morning before her daily run. Knowing that meteorologists fore casted wild weather, Dana made certain that her containers were secure.
As soon as her fingers touched the white laced shower curtain, chill bumps bloomed on Dana’s arms. The fierce gnarling wind rattled the windowpanes and Dana’s sense of security. Suddenly, another sound swung her from a state of shakiness to one of quaking trepidation. Shattered glass. Dana couldn’t recall walking downstairs, but the scene that awaited her would be shackled to her consciousness. Garbage. A gargantuan pile of someone else’s rancid dross had been wind flung through a window and served on her Granadillo formal dining table. What was once pristine was now covered in filth.
Two women with differing personalities, philosophies, and habits with one stinking similarity, each owned a mess to clean up.
As I examine my life I can recall times when I was like the fictitious women in this story. Like Courtney there have been messes caused by my negligence, sins, and mistakes. The mirror of my past reflects broken relationships caused by insecurities, debt resulting from overspending, and angry tirades as I pursued perfection. I have spent years hiding my self-wreckage in a dark closet of blame and excuses.
There also have been times when I was a Dana, living how I should be living, but blasted with another’s trash heap. Verbal attacks, betrayal, and deception pummeled me just like the bag of trash splattered on Dana’s table. Moreover, I put those into a box labeled “victim” and hid them.
The trash’s origin makes little difference at clean up time. Refusing to clean a mess that someone else made or started to make doesn’t hide the smell. Stamping my feet and wailing, “It’s not fair,” may garner sympathy but it won’t rid the stain. There are lots of things I can do with a mess. I can analyze it, call an expert to examine it, investigate its inception, and give it a fancy name like “dysfunctional matter.” I can even cleverly arrange a few pieces into abstract art. But, I absolutely cannot expunge it from my life unless I hold my nose, dig in, and toss away every last crumb. Even a morsel left behind will rot and mold causing a stench permeating through the soul.
It takes more than a twitch of the nose and a bottle of bleach to cleanse life’s heavy-duty messes: a marriage marred by infidelity, a career desecrated by deceit, an innocent one shamed by scandal, and a family smudged by divorce are just a few examples of common messes. When overwhelmed by chaos, how can order be restored? It starts with a powerful cleansing agent.
As a Christian I have been washed clean by the blood of Christ. Every sin ever committed and ever to be committed plastered Christ’s perfect body. When I mess up or when someone else dumps a mess on my turf there is no cleansing agent more powerful than the truth of God’s word.
In Joshua 1:5 God promises “I will never leave you or forsake you.” I’m glad I don’t have to go about my cleaning by myself; because when I do take that approach I just end up making a bigger mess. Cleaning up with God isn’t always easy. He is thorough and the labor is exhausting but you had better believe the job is done right. When the smell of the trash makes my stomach queasy, my back ache from the toil, and my eyes sting from salty tears, my Prince of Peace is beside me each step of the way brushing back my hair, holding the trash bag, and whispering “draw closer sweet one, you can do this. With me, you will see the beauty underneath this garbage. I promise.”
Some trash piles take longer to clean up than others. Many appear obliterated but small spores left behind fester and grow into a bigger mess. Sometimes it takes years before a mess is noticed or owned. When the cleaning gets tough, and rest assured it gets tough, solace exists in knowing that cutting through the dirt aligns me closer to my savior. Regardless the heap’s depth, stickiness, or odor, it is cleanable. And there is no scent more fragrant than the distilling love of Christ.
“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” I Corinthians 15:56-58.