Monday, August 8, 2011

Cleaning up trash

The last team to spend time with us, a combination of two churches from New Hampshire, had the opportunity to work with Niños Sin Fronteras (Children Without Borders), a non-profit children's clinic here in the community. The clinic organized a trash pick up day in the community. As any of you know who have been here, trash is an interesting part of this culture. It's every where. And it's not well taken care of. Most kids are allowed to throw candy and gum wrappers where ever they happened to put the sweet into their mouth. The drug addicts and alcoholics use the streets as their personal trash can. People who are responsible and bag their trash up and leave it in piles for the trash trucks to collect become frustrated every week as either dogs paw through the trash looking for scraps, or the addicts dig through it looking for left over food, scrap metal, or anything they can use. This undoubtedly leaves trash every where in the streets. Not to mention the trash that flows down river and ends up on the banks of Anonos. The clinic had a group of volunteers, the group from New Hampshire pitched in, and of course the young dudes and some of the little kids in our church wanted to lend a hand, too.

I don't know if you've ever been part of a trash pick up in your community. Let me tell you. It stinks. No, literally, it's not hard to do and I'm not complaining about picking up the trash. It just literally stinks. It was an olfactory assault on the brain. Who knew trash could be so stinky? Well, maybe Oscar the grouch, but that's his own fault. I started thinking about this as I worked. Many times in our lives we also collect trash. Things happen to us. People throw their own trash into our lives for us to pick up. They say mean words, little words or lies, which is like throwing gum and candy wrappers into our minds and hearts. They do mean things to us, like pitching used kleenex in our faces. They abuse us, like chucking broken bottles and dirty cigarette butts into our hearts. I think that looks different for every person, but in your own way I think you, too, understand what that means for you. 

This analogy also works for the sin in our lives. When we do things that we know we shouldn't do, we are effectively throwing trash into our own lives. When we hold on to sin in our lives, instead of asking for forgiveness from God, it begins to collect in the streets of our brains and the rivers of our hearts.
If we let those things build up in our lives, it can be very hard to get them out. Let me give an example of what I mean. As I was cleaning along the river bank, I came to where a house used to stand, but was washed away. Even though the house was gone, there was trash tangled in the old foundation that had obviously been there since clothes and blankets that were wedged under heavy rocks and shredded bags tangles around exposed pipes. I tried to pull at it to trow it out, but it was so tangled and rotten, wedged in and stuck with mud and nastiness that it wouldn't budge. I tugged and tugged, but it would have taken two guys to pull the rocks off it and maybe a knife to cut it free of the branches, metal bars, and debris that it was snared in. Since it had been there since November, it was ODORIFEROUS!! This is just like trash that has been left in our lives, from other people throwing it at us and from our own selves letting it collect from un-confessed sin. If left long enough, it too will begin to rot. This is what the Christian dictionary calls "bitterness". We can probably all think of a person or two who has let the trash of this life collect to the rotten point.

The amazing thing about walking with Christ is that he provides a way to clean this trash out of our lives. He has already paid for the "garbage truck" to come and take the trash out of our lives. All we have to do is ask him to come and clean us. The Holy Spirit loves to come in and clean out all the areas in our lives where trash has been placed. We also can take part in this process by confessing our sins. It's like we pick up our own trash in our lives and throw it into God's trash can, where it is removed as far as the east is from the west, never to be smelled again!! 

Of course, as a good Calvin College student and steward of this planet, I also have to give a plug for saving our planet. Reduce, reuse, recycle (sayings from my generation). It is important to not only pick up the spiritual trash we collect, but natural, physical trash, too. Let's leave a clean planet for our children's children's children's children's children's children's children.

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