It's big garbage collection this week. Everyone's favourite time of year, well maybe not everyone but my wife loves it. Who doesn't want free stuff? Well I love it now too, partly because we got some great free stuff for Isla, but mostly because the Lord has spoken to me this week through it. I love when he speaks in really weird ways, that's usually how I know it's him.
It started like this...
This past weekend, I was helping do a youth encounter weekend with some friends in Glace Bay. My wife, Gemma, was a little upset that she was left at home for the weekend with no car. She's been talking about this day coming since last year when she got some sweet treasures from someone else's trash. I knew she'd be really excited if I found a cool chair or some awesome tricycle for Isla, so any chance I had to drive around Glace Bay I had my eyes peeled for something hiding in a pile of rubble. No luck, I didn't notice one thing that was even worth stopping to look at.
What I did notice was how much junk people were throwing away. I couldn't believe how people could have collected all this stuff, why they had spent their money on such things and how they could just put it out there for the entire world to see. Some of it was embarrassing. Who would buy a couch like that? What does the rest of their house look like? Where did they keep all this stuff up until yesterday? It doesn't look like it would even fit in their house... You know all those judgemental things that cross our mind. I had lots of them.
Then I came back to my own town. The weekend ended a little early and I didn't have anything to bring home to my wife yet so I thought, I'll just drive around and see if I can find anything, there must be better junk in Sydney Mines than in Glace Bay. Guess what, Sydney Mines junk is the same as Sydney junk, is the same as Georges River junk, is the same as Glace Bay junk. I returned home empty handed.
Then the Lord spoke to me. I went to the shed, to get the one box of junk I thought had to put out, very proud of myself that I didn't have nearly as much junk as my neighbours. Then I started going through my shed. Guess what happened? Junk everywhere, things I had dragged around for years, broken things I thought I'd fix someday, scraps of wood, curtain rods, empty oil jugs... junk, junk, junk. So that was all good. I pulled boxes out to the street, organized my shed and looked around and felt great (now there's room for lots more junk in my shed).
But the Lord wasn't done yet, he always has some spiritual plan when he shows us something in the natural. It's always to refine us spiritually. So I finished dragging my junk to the curb and looked up and down the street to compare my pile to my neighbours again. He said, “You know you've got other junk you need to get rid of too, right?” I realized I'd just spent a couple days driving around judging just about everyone in CBRM. I drew all kinds of conclusions about people I'd never met based solely on their junk; how they lived, what they spent their money on, what they value... The Lord showed me I do that all the time, me, a youth pastor, who writes a blog giving spiritual insights and claims to follow Jesus. Turns out, I’m not quite perfect yet, I’ve still got some ugly bits in my heart that the Lord hasn’t dragged out onto the curb yet (don’t worry, I didn’t actually think I was perfect, just being a little facetious).
We do that quite often though, we ‘the churchies’. That’s why lots of people don’t want to go to our churches or be around people that ‘follow Jesus’. Everyone has junk and all too often we either make huge over-assumptions about a person because they have junk in their life or we pretend like everyone in the church has already dealt with all their junk. Clearly we have not, if we think that we have, we’re on the Pharisees team. Maybe some of us have dealt with more than others, maybe some of us never went down the same paths where we can pick up so much junk, but we’ve all got something left we can get rid of. Here’s the thing, only the Holy Spirit is flexible enough to get into those places where junk gets stored, like behind the washing machine or under the rug. I just moved my washing machine, trust me, there are mouldy things under there that you thought you washed long ago. There’s stuff in the attic you thought would never come back down. Everyone has somewhere they store their junk.
So how do we start to get rid of it? It’s hard to do it all at once. My back was sore yesterday from lugging all that heavy junk to the curb, I’m not sure what I’d feel if I tried to get rid of all my spiritual junk at once, I’ll bet something would be sore. But I think we can get rid of some of it and start the process of sifting out the trash.
At the Youth encounter weekend we had 6 different people share and teach different sessions with the youth, some pastors, some not. People shared some very personal things from their lives, things God had helped them through and was still using to refine their faith. These were some of the most real and honest talks I’ve ever heard, people sharing huge mistakes they made and real struggles they are having even today. And the youth responded. They saw ‘church people’, who maybe they thought would never have dealt with these kinds of things, open their hearts and lives at the risk of ruining their reputations or bringing judgment from others about the junk they had in their lives. It was the real deal. Then the Holy Spirit brought some freedom. He took some of those confessions and struggles, dragged them out to the curb where everyone could see them, could rummage through them, maybe take something out of the pile, something they were looking for, something they needed, then it was hauled away, forgiven and dealt with. I don’t know where the junk goes when they take it way, but I know it’s gone from my life forever when I ask Jesus to forgive me. The Bible says when you are forgiven it goes as far as the east is from the west.
I know I still have more junk to get rid of, things that are hard to let go of, but I want to keep thinning them out. Some of them are too big to carry on my own. I need a friend (or even a church) to help me through them. Then maybe I can help them too, with things they can’t carry.
Here’s an idea that I’m sure no one will go for but what about this; we pick a day and it could be spiritual large garbage day in the church. We’ll all get together, spend the day putting our junk out there - maybe even ask for help for the things that are too big do deal with on our own. People can look at all the junk everyone has, help go through and find the things that will help them and realize they’re not the only one with junk. Then together, as the body of Christ, we can start helping one another get freedom and forgiveness for the junk in our lives instead of judging or feeling judged. The Holy Spirit can take that junk where ever he takes it so we don’t have to deal with it anymore.
Hmmm, that probably wouldn’t work... would it