Like many young men of my generation, I had chores. One of the primary chores was to take out the trash. From a very early age I was tasked to be the one to put the trash bag together, tie it up, and haul it outside rain, sleet, or snow (and in Michigan, there was a lot of snow).
Back in the day, people in the country didn’t have the luxuries we do today and had to burn a lot of their waste in barrels. Today that would be frowned upon in more ways than one. Yet, there was something about burning that trash and not just putting it in a plastic bucket to be taken to a dump somewhere. Not saying I’m a pyromaniac or anything, but the metaphor of that trash being burned up into ashes verses sitting in a hole somewhere just waiting to be dug up again speaks to me.
This past weekend, I was exploring an abandoned farm and saw these barrels lined up in a row where the prior owner had been using them to burn their trash. It made me think about the many things in life that we hold onto. Some things we never throw away. We keep then buried in drawers, closets, garages, boxes, or just laying around.
One of our favorite shows the Mrs. and I like to watch together is American Picker. It’s amazing to see how some of those people just hold onto everything! I mean, stuff from a lifetime ago that they’re sure one day they may need. It seems almost crazy, but I can also understand it a little.
Often, we’re that way with our hurts and past pains. Instead of putting our painful baggage in the trash to be burned up or taken away, we hold onto it thinking that, one day, someone will pay for that loss. In a way, that pain we hold onto even gives us an identity; something to turn to for sympathy.
Yet, the tragedy of holding onto the things that hurt us is that ‘hurt trash’ begins to stink over the years and that smell spreads to other areas of our hearts. It pollutes our soul with anger and bitterness. Bitterness alone will destroy a person.
One of the things we used to do at youth campfires was to write down our pain, hurt, or bad memory and put it into the fire. It was symbolic of giving it over to God and letting go of it. Taking that emotional step to put the trash out is the first step of cleaning up those hurts and pains in our life. Letting go of the pains of the past will only make room for new, good memories. It will allow us to store good thoughts and begin to heal the areas that had become rotten from the trash sitting there so long.
There’s only one way I’ve found to take the trash out emotionally – forgiveness. Forgiveness is the ultimate burn barrel to get rid of the trash. Letting go of those past pains and throwing them into that fire takes away the disease of bitterness and stench of anger. It frees us to become what God wants us to be.
Today, and every day, I pray for, not only forgiveness of my own past, but forgiveness for those who have brought hurt to me. In that, I find a sense of peace and room to trust again.
I’m praying for you today, my friend, that if there’s any trash laying around in your heart, that you would be able to take it to that burn barrel and let it go only to be taken away forever in the flames of forgiveness. It may be a process and it may be one piece of trash at a time. But step-by-step, you will find that, the more you put into that trash burn barrel, the more you’ll find good things to fill the space they’ve left behind.
Love always my friends!