"I absolutely detest taking out the garbage!" Our conversation during and after dinner covered everything from grandkids to racism to what it meant to live in grace instead of guilt, with a few other topics thrown in for good measure. It is a Thursday, and tomorrow is trash collection day in our village. Linda had a meeting at church tonight, and as she got ready to leave, I uttered these words as I began to gather the filled plastic garbage bags from their various receptacles in the kitchen.
"Really?" Linda asked, then offered to take it out on her way to the garage. I motioned her away, and finished collecting the bags before taking them out, filling the official village bag, and taking it to the side of the road.
"I don't know why; it's not a hard job," I continued. But it is true. It's not a particularly unpleasant job. I don't mind the daily shoveling up the piles our dog leaves in the yard, but I hate taking out the garbage. That doesn't mean I don't do it. It's one of those chores that becomes very noticeable if not done regularly, so I do it.
A lot of life is that way. Unfortunately, we've come to believe that everyone should follow their dreams, and that the resulting quests should never be hampered with unpleasantries. Children are given participation trophies, college students riot so they won't have to listen to a speaker say things that don't fit with their preconceived and unreflective notions. And Christians often expect to achieve holiness and to feel the presence of God without waiting on the mountain or walking through the desert. If we just sing another chorus, dim the lighting, close our eyes and raise our hands, God will surely hear and answer us with signs and wonders.
"Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like a ever flowing stream." Amos 5:23-24. This afternoon I read of Moses ascending the mountain of God, where he waited six days before God spoke to him. What was he doing for those six days? The Scripture doesn't say, but we can be sure he wasn't checking his cell phone every five minutes. Important business was at hand; he was listening for the voice of God. And I ask myself, "When was the last time you waited for six solid days without interruption, just to hear from God?" Like, never.
Some things in life just need to be done, not because they bring us pleasure, but because left undone, like that garbage, life begins to stink. I am challenged by today's Scripture. You can read it yourself in Exodus 24:16-18. I have no excuses. I'm retired and don't have to report in to work. But I do need to make the decision to forego some things if I am to do the one thing necessary. The trick is this: it's not the bad things that start to stink. It's the good things that have hung around too long. The trash is waiting by the side of the road, and I feel better now that it's out there instead of in here. Truth is, that's not the only garbage that has to go.