Wheelie bins

We’re on holiday in Normandy this week with three of our daughters and their husbands and children. The sun has been shining, we had a stroll round a local market yesterday and a great barbecue last night with really tender steak cooked to perfection by one of our sons-in-law!

It’s wonderful! But some things are just the same as they are at home and one is the need to get rid of the waste, rubbish, garbage, trash – call it what you will. So last night we trundled three wheelie-bins up to the gate of the house we are staying in and I believe I can hear the lorry (truck) collecting them right now, as I type.

It’s important, because if the waste is not disposed of it begins to smell and given time it takes over. Anyone who has experienced a strike by the people who collect the rubbish knows that it can get pretty bad. The bags pile up, flies swarm, and disease threatens.

At an individual level we also need to eliminate the waste in what we eat on a regular basis. Fortunately our bodies take care of that, but if the process stops working as it should the results are not nice either.

All this got me thinking: what about spiritual waste?  Don’t we need to get rid of that, too? What’s the process? Is it automatic?

The answer, to my mind, is that we do indeed need to get rid of that waste, and the process is not automatic – or not totally automatic anyway. And, like physical waste, if spiritual waste accumulates the consequences are smelly!

What then is the process? I’d be glad of your ideas and experiences (comment below or send me a message through the contact form) but, in the meantime, here are my thoughts.

I’m pretty sure that some sort of prayer is involved, probably a specific request to God to either remove the waste Himself, or show us what it is and how to get rid of it. Perhaps it involves confession of the things we know to be wrong: the waste we have deliberately or inadvertently allowed into our lives. Perhaps “sitting with Jesus”, as Brian Zahnd calls it in “Water to Wine” (a book I’m finding both enjoyable and challenging) will help.

Christian mystics and monks as early as the third century have spoken of this practice. It’s something I stumbled upon in my own experiments with prayer. I didn’t know the term contemplative prayer. I simply thought of it as “sitting with Jesus.”

Zahnd, Brian (2016-01-11).
Water To Wine: Some of My Story (p. 97).
Spello Press. Kindle Edition.

Another way is reading the Bible, letting God speak to us through this inspired library of His-story. Ephesians 5:26 talks about being made clean by the word, by what God speaks.

You may have seen the graphic illustration of spiritual cleansing where the speaker takes a glass of dirty water and pours clean water into it. At first there is little effect, but gradually the water in the glass gets lighter and lighter in colour as it overflows and the clean, pure water mixes with and ultimately all but replaces the dirty water.

That’s my final suggestion. Once more from Ephesians (5:18), “Keep on being filled with the Spirit.” As we ask God daily to fill us with the clean water of His Holy Spirit, the pollution in us will be flushed out.

Prayer, contemplation, Bible reading, listening to God, being filled with the Holy Spirit. These are my thoughts on how to get rid of my spiritual waste.

Sure it’ll come back, that’s the nature of waste, and that’s why, however I do it, I must make sure I pay attention to a regular discipline of elimination.

However, all this begs the question of what this spiritual waste might be? Quite simply, I think it’s anything I could not digest (like fibre in food), anything that is superfluous (like packaging) and anything that is not nutritious – that does not build me up and help me grow in my faith. Perhaps it also includes the good things that distract from pursuing the best thing: God Himself. In the end, it could be a very long list! Best to ask Him what waste needs eliminating!

If you often read the Bible, pray and/or contemplate, and continually ask to be refilled with the Holy Spirit, then waste elimination will be at least partly automatic. But – and I’m challenging myself, too – how about making it intentional?

I think I will!

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