As a new cop, or probationer as we were called in Scotland, you are always given the worst jobs. Not that long after I had started my career as a police constable I was taken to a house by my sergeant where an old woman had been found dead. The house from the outside looked impressive, it had once been a manager’s house for a huge Victorian Mill that dominated the town of Paisley. It had that air of Victorian respectability. I was not prepared for what lay on the other side of the front door. The smell was overwhelming and there was rubbish on every part of every inch of the floor over every floor in the house. We eventually waded through the rubbish to the kitchen where in a corner in a tiny bed lay a little old lady who died in her sleep surrounded by the accumulated rubbish of her life.
I had to carry out an investigation and neighbours said they rarely saw the lady but when they did, she was always cheerie and well presented. She kept the small garden at the front of the house relatively neat and tidy. What was clear from inside was that it had been years since she had thrown anything out. She just kept accumulating more and more rubbish in her house. Incidentally I had to capture about six cats that lived among the rubbish and I had thought that police work would be exciting!
I came across something Bruxy Cavey had written recently that reminded me of that old lady and her house …… and the smell.
“What are you carrying around from your past? What guilt or garbage haunts you? What habit from your past or habit in your present causes you shame when you think about it? For some of us suppression, repression and denial are the only ways in which we can cope with another day. When we ignore our own sin, we are like people who store garbage in their basement. Sure, “out of sight, out of mind” works for a while but over time the pile builds up. We can try and live as though it doesn’t exist, and eventually we might become used to the rotten smell. But sooner or later someone will notice what we don’t, and our garbage will become known”
I sometimes wonder how many people who gather in worship week by week have lives that are the spiritual equivalent of the house of that little old lady from Paisley, full of rubbish from the past? People who keep everything respectable on the outside but who have a stinking mess of guilt, shame, and regret over sin in their souls on the inside.
This isn’t a new phenomenon. John talks to the church of his generation about it in his first letter.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:8-9
Basically, Johns says its time to kiss goodbye to the garbage in our lives. To be honest about its existence, to stop trying to hide it from ourselves and others and do something about it. I had to arrange with the council to bring in cleaners to clean up that old lady’s house, to literally disinfect and scrub it. John says when we acknowledge and admit our sin, instead of trying hide it away in our souls, that Jesus will do the same for us. Jesus “will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”
The amazing thing is that I discovered that this old lady who died in such squalor had a very healthy bank account. She had a good job, she never married, had no dependants, didn’t spend very much and so her bank balance grew over the years. She had more than enough money to pay people to come in and do for her perhaps what she couldn’t do for herself and clean out her rubbish.
You probably realise where I am going with this. The parallels aren’t exact, because we don’t need to pay Jesus, but the promise here in God’s Word is that Jesus will do for us what we can’t do for ourselves and get rid of the garbage of sin from our lives.
So why do we so often let the garbage of guilt and shame accumulate in our souls?
John says when we “come clean” about our sin to Jesus he comes in to cleans out our hearts and souls with the disinfectant of forgiveness.
So, is there any garbage in your life that you have hidden from others, but you can smell? Jesus says its time to you “its time to say goodbye to that garbage.”