Garbage. Land fill sites overflowing, ‘pristine’ beaches littered with plastic refuse, trash infested forests, water, earth and air, polluted. Garbage. And then there’s the metaphorical use of the word for parts of the human experience. It’s not just about the ‘stuff’ we have piled up in our basements, garages and storage units. We know that we need to get rid of it but we ‘dither’. Do we just throw it out? What if the children or grandchildren or someone else in the family could use it? What if we will need that widget, doohickey, thingamabob…some time? (Could you find it in the pile of stuff?)
Perhaps we could sell it, have a yard sale or put it at the end of the lane with a sign saying ‘free’! But it’s not just about that kind of stuff.
Most of us have garbage in our lives. Sometimes we call it baggage, but that’s a very tidy image isn’t it? No one, except God, can see the ugliness packed away in handsome luggage. Our garbage is much more visible, and even odoriferous, to all those within range. They encounter it as we express ourselves in mean and nasty words, bullying and obnoxious behavior, judgmental, critical attitudes, in gossip, anger and resentment.
It may pile up as a result of family of origin issues, as a result of addictions or mental illness, or chronic disease. It increases with layers of guilt, worry, insecurity, self-centeredness, pride or notions of entitlement. It topples over with our sad stories, grievances, complaints, grudges and bitterness. Some of these things don’t go away. Family challenges, illness, difficult memories and other life facts are not always easy to ‘fix’ although many can be treated, or made manageable with the right professional help. Other things can be discarded, often to the great benefit of our friends and family as well as ourselves, if we are willing to let go of them.
They do not have to define our lives.
But facing the music, that is the inner conflict, isn’t easy. In his indubitable convoluted style St. Paul addressed this very dilemma. “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me…Wretched man that I am!” Romans 7:15-16 Letting go of the garbage in our lives, and not producing more, is another way to look at the spiritual disciplines of self-examination, penitence and confession. But for us really to be free we also need to forgive and accept forgiveness, sometimes from another person, often from ourselves and always from God.
St. Paul’s answer to his personal sin garbage crisis? “Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Prayer: Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness; in your great compassion blot out my offences. Wash me through and through from my wickedness and cleanse me from my sin. Create in me and clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Amen. From Psalm 51