Just last week, two friends invited me to join them on their morning walk. I love them both, so it was an easy yes. Little did I know I was about to discover an important metaphor for life.
As we walked along, I noticed that one or the other of them would suddenly stop and then scurry to catch up. They explained that they always pick up trash while they’re walking and then deposit it into the nearest trash can. It seemed to be understood that if I walked with them I’d be expected to do the same thing. I didn’t notice the trash as fast as they did. They had trained their eyes to spot it quickly, and they pounced on it like kittens on a jiggling string. One of them laughed and said, “If you’re going to walk with us, you’re going to have to pick it up too.” I shot back, “Well, I’ve got to see it before I can pick it up!” We all laughed, and I added, “You know there’s a blog in there somewhere!”
Indeed, there was! The more I think about it, the more I realize how difficult it is to get rid of our emotional trash unless we first see it. Sometimes, it takes a good friend or two or three to point out the things that litter our thoughts and actions. Our reaction to their insight can either help or hinder our healing process.
Take David for instance. It wasn’t until the prophet Nathan confronted David that he finally saw his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah as sin against the Lord. (2 Samuel 12:1-13) Once David saw the trash in his heart for what it was, he repented and threw it out. Speculate for just a moment what the rest of history might have looked like had David not acknowledged his mistakes and made them right.
And what about Naaman? (2 Kings 5:11-14) As army commander for the king of Aram, Naaman held a prestigious position. However, no glorified position could protect him from the skin disease he had contracted. After hearing that Elisha the man of God had come to Samaria, Naaman went to him for healing. Yet, when Elisha merely sent a message containing simple healing instructions rather than coming in person, Naaman got angry. Not only was Naaman offended that Elisha didn’t take time to see him face to face, but he also thought dipping seven times in the muddy Jordan River was beneath someone of his position. It took a servant unwrapping Naaman’s trashy pride to help him get a good whiff of the stink he wore. Realizing his mistake, Naaman tossed away his pride and was healed.
Jumping to the New Testament (John 18:17-27), we see what stinky trash even the great apostle Peter unknowingly possessed. Peter didn’t need a human reprimand to realize his transgression against Jesus. God used the crowing of a rooster to highlight the stench of fear causing him to deny the Lord. Later in Galatians 2, we read of Peter receiving a reprimand from Paul for being a foul-smelling hypocrite. Imagine how diluted Peter’s gospel message would have been had he not realized and accepted his need to clean up his heart and attitude.
What kind of trash are you holding onto? We all have a little scrap or two tucked away in a pocket. Some of it we created for ourselves, and some was dumped on top of us by someone else. Who will come alongside you and do their best to help you throw it away? Your spouse? A parent? A friend? A small group? Maybe a counselor? Who will you come alongside?
We are all on this journey together. Imagine walking with those who lovingly point out the trash you might not see so that you can pick it up. Imagine being able to help a friend pick up their trash so that each of you can throw yours into the nearest trash can. When we do that, we’ll all feel a whole lot lighter, and the world will smell a whole lot better.