Setting the Garbage on the Curb

by Joe McKeever

It happened again this morning. In the pre-dawn hours I lay awake, unable to sleep. Anxieties were filling the room like ghosts in the night, trying to frighten and alarm me with varying degrees of success, but successfully robbing me of sleep.

As always, I lay there sending up little prayers to the Father.

"Forgive me of my sin, Father. Help me. You are my Rock. You are my strength."

Lying there, I thought of all the reasons the Lord has for not hearing me. I'm such a poor Christian. My prayer life is so shallow. I read the Bible in the mornings and rarely give it another thought in the day. He takes care of my financial needs and still I worry. What kind of Christian am I? Why should He forgive me? What if the people I work with knew what a poor Christian I am?

And then this morning, He sent an answer.

I heard the garbage truck outside, running its usual early Saturday morning route. The motor revved as workers compacted the trash. Someone hollered. A can hit the pavement. The engine purred as the truck softly moved forward to the next house. The noises were oddly comforting, and then the Holy Spirit told me why.

The workers are taking away our garbage. The sanitation system has ways of dealing with it, places to dump it, methods for disposing of it. It will be gone; we will never see that trash again. Their system works-our streets are clean and our homes are free from the continual buildup of accumulated garbage and the unhealthy conditions that would produce. We owe a great debt to workers whom we rarely ever see.

In the same way, God removes the sin we have confessed. It is gone. We will walk outside later this morning and retrieve the garbage cans we set out last night. They will be empty. We will set them back in place inside the fence, ready to receive today's and tomorrow's garbage. That's the process; we believe in it and rarely question it.

Shouldn't we believe God just as strongly and surely? Shouldn't we take as fact that "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness" (I John 1:9).

When He takes it away, God removes it totally and deals with it thoroughly. He buries it in the deepest ocean (Mic. 7:19). He forgets it (Heb. 10:17). He nails it to the cross (Col. 2:14).

The point is that we'll never see that sin again. "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us" (Ps. 103:12)

There's a condition here, though. A "divine however".

The garbage men-the sanitation workers-only remove what I set out. They do not enter my house and walk through the rooms and comb through the waste baskets gathering up all the trash they can find. That's my job. What I identify as trash and put in the appropriate container and set in place, they will cart away.

My job before the Lord is to identify and name the trash in my life, anything unworthy of Him, everything that interferes with my worship and obedience of Him, all that does not have His name on it, whatever weighs me down and holds me back and hinders faith. "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin," we're told in Romans 14:23.

I make it a point to name anything the Holy Spirit calls to my attention-because He is the One who knows what I need to set on the curb-and then I pray, "Forgive me of all my sin, O Lord."

In confessing it to the Father, I am not removing my sin. I am merely bagging it and setting it on the curb for the Holy Spirit to pick up and deal with.

Because of the great and mysterious process that occurred when our Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross and was resurrected three days later, the system works. His blood atones for my sins. His death paid for my wrongs. He died in my place. He, and He alone, is the Savior. I am the beneficiary, the heir of His estate, the one blessed by the curse of the cross. Only in heaven will we learn the full dimension of the blessings that are ours by Calvary.

Human language falters trying to fathom and encapsulate and describe all that is ours as a result of that event on the hill outside Jerusalem some 2,000 years ago.

We know it's not just a matter of saying the right words, of touching all the bases, but in asking the Father for cleansing and forgiveness and for Him to fill me with His Spirit and to use me that day, I ask Him to do this "by the precious blood of Jesus, in the matchless name of Jesus, for the wonderful sake of Jesus."

Now I'm ready to face a new day.

Dr. McKeever, a pastor for more than four decades, writes and creates
church-related cartoons with equal felicity. He presently serves as
director of missions for the New Orleans Baptist Association.

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