A block from where I start my morning walk there is a lot of trash between
the sidewalk and a high wall that extends the length of the block. In the
10 feet between them there can be all kinds of trash: food wrappers, plastic
market bags, discarded drink cups, pages torn out of books, etc., etc., etc!
Since my walk is a prayer time and I was already talking to Him, I complained
to the Lord one day about all the trash. His reply: "remember how much of
your trash (sins) I have picked up." Immediately, in gratitude for His many
forgivenesses I began picking up trash. And I have done so a couple of times
a week ever since. The practice has taught me many lessons, some of which I'd
like to share with you.
God has indeed picked up all our trash. The extent of His mercy is full:
He has not let one of our sins go unsuffered for. There is so much trash that
I can pick up only a portion. But He has not only become aware of all our sins,
He has also done the inconceivable task of atoning for them in the death of His
Whereas I didn't put the trash there, I can still pick it up. This is the
family of man taking care of each other. There are people who just don't yet
see the need for keeping the streets clean. So I can take over some of their
responsibility by cleaning up after them. While doing so, I usually say something
like this: "forgive them, Lord. And I bless them" because He Himself tells us
to bless our enemies. The people who throw trash out the window are enemies of
the health and beauty of our city, so I can bless them. Incidentally, I find my
own heart is in much better shape since I began blessing enemies instead of
When Jesus taught us to pray, "forgive us our trespasses," I think He was giving
us permission to confess others' sins. We're way too individualistic in Western
civilization—most of the rest of the world sees that we need to take steps for
others' benefit (see chap. 9 in my Holy Vulnerability:
"Vulnerability to God's
Collective View of His People"). You can confess someone else's sin, and God
responds with grace towards them. And you.
I can pick up small and large pieces of trash. This reminds me that the Lord
has picked up my little bitty sins and well as the humongous ones. What a God He
is to have been so diligent in setting me free.
Every time I pick up trash it endears me to the heart of the One who has forgiven
me. "You are some God!" I exclaim to Him. "What a God to have been so generous to
me. I thank You, Lord, for your astounding mercy towards me."
Some trash is so blatant that it tempts me to anger. Some trash is just over
the top, it's just too trashy, it's simply too rude. Some of it is not all that
easy to pick up. I once strained my knee doing it and had to wear a brace for
several weeks. But then, of course, I melt with the recognition of how God has
viewed some of my sins, especially the really bad ones. He had every right to
anger, yet responded to my sins with compassion. What can I say but: "O God, help
me to adopt Your attitude of mercy towards those whose sins are blatant."
While I just toss the trash into a bin, somebody else has to cart it away.
Jesus took the sins of all into His own body on that tree, and those sins killed
Him. But when He descended into hell, He deposited those sins there in hell where
they originated and where they belong. When He rose, He rose free and clear of all
sins. We don't have to leave our sins sitting in trash cans behind the garage of
our souls. Let Him take them completely away.
It's a busy street by which I pick up trash; sometimes I ask the Lord to let
some driver see me and be touched by the behavior they see. Wouldn't it be nice
if more who see us behaving mercifully were moved to be more merciful themselves?