I had an unforgettable experience this weekend. As I was sitting in my living room, a rancid smell began to waft in through the windows.
At first I ignored it, hoping it was a passing garbage truck. It wasn't. Then I shut the windows, hoping to block out the smell. That took the edge off, but the odor was still there. We've had neighborhood cats deposit in our flower bed before, so I angrily went to the front door to see if that's what I was dealing with. Nope. The flower bed was clean.
With our online church service starting momentarily, I shut the door and tried to put it out of my mind. Throughout the service, I'd catch a whiff and my mind would wander back to the smell. I mentioned it to Eddie and he said earlier that morning he'd seen our neighbor walk past our house with a small shopping bag in her hand, only to return a moment later without the bundle. A quick look out the window confirmed a small bag lying in the grass near the road.
I was somewhat doubtful that such a small thing could be causing such an alarming odor, but I couldn't ignore the issue any longer. I went to check it out and sure enough, the bag, which was untied, contained the decomposed head of either a sheep or goat (I'm no expert). Using a stick, I carried first the jaw bone to our trash container, then the bag of maggoty remnants. Yuck!
This unforgettable moment immediately made me think of spiritual trash in my own life. Have I allowed others to heap trash on my doorstep? Have I looked the other way, hoping someone else will deal with it? Have I been the culprit; cleaning my own house only to pass the burden on to someone else?
I recently read a very challenging book, entitled "Solus Jesus." In it, the authors talk about scapegoat theory; the universal tendency for societies to purge evil from their group by way of putting it on a scapegoat. The scapegoat, by definition, is an innocent, not the evil entity that the group claims him or her to be.
In my own faith journey, there are some hot button issues that have plagued me for years. Issues of equity. Issues where scripture reads one way, but the revelation of God's nature through Jesus would appear to say the opposite. Times when I've read the Bible and scratched my head saying, "Does it really say that? Does He really mean that?"
Over the years I've prayed for clarity, I've felt the tension of these issues, but I haven't come to many conclusions. Instead of dealing with the mess properly, I've walked out a few paces and dumped it on someone else's property.
You see, for me these issues were inconvenient and made me feel kinda queasy. I felt there were other people who could better handle the mess, or barring that, would have no choice but to deal with what I didn't want to fully take-on. I confess that, like my neighbor, it was more convenient for me to dump my rancid trash on innocent strangers and friends, hoping they'd deal with it and leave me out of it. What a cop-out!
In response to my reading, and this real-life encounter I've just had, I am committed to identifying ways I have scapegoated others and repent of those things. I am committed to actually dealing with the mess and stink in my own life, rather than ignoring it and hoping it goes away. It's time to takeout the trash.