Why don’t I put my garbage can out night before pick up? Good question. The sanitation workers, “the earth beautification engineers,” come early to pick up my trash. We must be the first street of their route because they are up and at it before the roosters (I’m not a farmer. I don’t know when roosters awaken, but I’ve heard it’s after the sanitation workers arrive. Maybe the beep, beep, beep of the garbage truck in reverse wakes the roosters. It does me). So today, just like last week and the week before that, long before the sun shines and before the roosters’ cock-a-doodle-do, I was in my jammies, running my can (literally and figuratively) out to the side of the road.
We keep our trash can next to the house door in the garage. In order to move my can (literally and figuratively), I first open the garage door; start the car; back the car out of the garage; get the can; walk it to the end of my driveway; get the recycling too; get back in the car; pull it into the garage; and close the door. Ugh. It would have been a whole lot easier if I would have set the garbage can out last night when I returned home from the church.
Why share my trash pick-up woes with you?
I know plenty of people who have trouble ridding the garbage in their lives too. In fact, I hear it over and over. “Pastor, I don’t want to do _______ (fill in the blank with any number of bad or sinful behaviors), but I find myself doing it.” Generally, we pray about the circumstance and temptation. They make promises to God and then in a month (maybe two) let me know that they are still struggling, still trapped and not very victorious. What’s the problem?
Does God not answer our prayers? Can God not empower us to leave our garbage behind? Silly questions. Of course, God answers prayers and gives strength to overcome any foe. So why aren’t more people victorious?
Let’s go back to my trash can analogy. People understand they have trash in their lives which they need to lose (Duh? Don’t we all?). They take their can to the road (to the altar), leave it there (for a while) and then (what happens all too often) wheel their trash can back into the garage before the sanitation workers arrive. The garbage has been to the road and back, but it’s still there.
We need to leave our garbage with God. That’s my point. Take it to the road and leave it. Don’t go near it. Don’t go back to it. Don’t peek inside the lid. Leave it. Take it to Jesus and leave it. Paul writes in a familiar passage in Philippians,“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,I press on toward the goal…” (Philippians 3:13b-14a). Leave your junk behind. Forget about it.
Instead of returning to those things we have left beside the road, let’s listen to the One who comes and gives us the power to say “no.” The prophet Isaiah put it this way: “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21).
Like my continuing to forget to take the trash out to the road, it’s easier “said than done” to “leave our trash with Jesus.” I get it. But keep trying. When the urge to return to your past burdens, worries and trash comes, listen to the still but certain voice behind you, “This is the way; walk in it.”