(June 21, 1989)
A friendly woman along my walking route chuckled as she placed one empty milk carton in her curbside garbage container. “I’m really efficient; I take my garbage out one piece at a time.”
Trying to be positive, I encouraged that at least walking back and forth was good exercise.
Halfway down the block I started thinking about other possible benefits of her “one-thing-at-a-time” efficiency. In contrast, some of us tend to tackle too many things at once. For instance, I have one half of a pair of drapes hanging beside my sewing machine, a half finished needlepoint folded in a basket in the living room, a nearly completed afghan in a box beside the family room love seat, the material to make ceramic trivets sitting in the garage . . . need I go on?
I justify myself with the fact I am easily bored. It is more interesting to hop back and forth between several projects, even though nothing ever seems to be finished, than working on one thing for a long time. Even when the drapes are done, I’m apt to start a macramé before the afghan is completed.
My whole life isn’t like that though. Certain activities, like making beds, cooking meals, and washing dirty dishes and laundry, MUST be done from start to finish all at one time. If I don’t, those things multiply entirely out of hand; the household becomes chaotic, and my family threatens to replace me.
But I have to admit, the haphazard method is my preference. It fits in with my temperament and allows me to do what I please, when I please. But it is disastrous for some necessities, including taking out the garbage.
Oh, not the usual kind. Every now and then, God lets me know my life needs some spiritual house cleaning. Yuck. He points to a few bad attitudes, some sinful habits, and some selfish time-wasters that are piling up in the corners. Garbage. Now that I am a Christian, I’d like to gather it up in a big bundle, generalize it with “Lord, You know I’m a sinner . . . ” and get it out all at one time, just as I did at my conversion. But for some reason, it doesn’t work that way now. It seems, to really be rid of each smelly item, it must be taken to Him one piece at a time.
He works the same way we clean up a messy room, starting with one piece of junk. As He picks it out for my examination, I’m responsible to agree with His evaluation and condemnation... it IS junk -- it MUST go. Amazingly, He wants me to give it to Him, but along with it, a confessed description of exactly what the junk is, “Forgive me for doing such and such . . . ”
He promises in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” In other words, He chucks the thing in His garbage can. (At that point, I have to make sure I fully repent and don’t pick it up and carry it back in my house. In spite of the smell, I tend to try and hang on to the stuff.)
Another thing about trash, after it’s gone it can leave an “after odor.” In other words, even when I properly confess the thing, my heart sometimes still feels dirty. However, God said He would clean it up. I’m to believe what He says, not assume by my feelings that He didn’t. After all, unbelief and false guilt can be just as foul as whatever I confessed.
Whoever she is, thanks to the neighbor lady. God used her remark to remind me of the inefficiency of making blanket confessions. In this case, “just one piece at a time” IS the best way.