“Warning—bears in the area! Please dispose of your trash in the bear-proof dumpster.”
The signs were the same ones we had observed a few years before, when we’d had a couple of false alarms. This year my sisters and I had brought our families back to Hume Lake, where our gorgeous log cabin was big enough to house all fifteen of us. It had a beautiful wraparound porch outside the wall of windows. The windows allowed for lots of sunshine as well as a clear view of those warning signs.
You would think we would have learned our lesson about not leaving our bagged garbage outside the cabin. It wasn’t as if it were all that difficult to take it to the bear-proof dumpsters that the camp provided.
But we hadn’t.
In our defense, fifteen people can generate a lot of trash!
The first night of our stay we were tidying up after dinner. Someone who shall remain nameless…okay, it was me!...bagged the rubbish and set it outside the front door as we rushed out to hike in the early evening. Returning home, all fifteen of us walked by those same smelly, trash-filled bags.
Did any of us stop to contemplate the possible consequences if we didn’t take it to the dump? I did, but I was fatigued by the exercise and walked by, pretending that I didn’t.
Fast forward to 11:15 that same night. My sister, Annette, and her husband, Ken, were reading in the living room when they heard heavy footfalls on the porch. Bear! They ran for the darkness of the kitchen. Heart pounding, Annette watched from there as Ken inched towards the window to watch. The massive bear swung his heavy head towards him, glaring with his beady little eyes.
Did the bear see the two of them? If he did, he must have felt that they were of no consequence as he continued to lumber around. Riiippp… the bags he found quickly gave way, no match for his long sharp claws. Annette and Ken were powerless to do anything except watch as the bear’s feast began.
He was in no hurry to leave, either, but continued to peer in the windows as he ambled around the porch. Eventually he wandered away into the dense, low-hanging trees and disappeared from sight.
In relief Annette and Ken both let out the breath that they hadn’t realized they were holding.
The next night there was no question as to whether or not to deposit the trash at the dump. It was done—yes, by one of the men—and without comment. No one wanted a return visit from that bear.
It seems the bear didn’t care what we wanted. At the same time as the night before, he showed up looking for another meal. All fifteen of us sat in the darkness together, having wondered if he would return. It was eerie to watch. If his muffled grunting was any indication, he was not very happy that we had failed to provide him food.
Every single night we were there that bear came to visit. Having been rewarded with food the first night seemed to ensure that we were part of his foraging routine. It never got easier to watch him prowl around, only separated from us by the thin pane of window glass. We had heard stories of bears that actually broke through glass to gain entrance if it smelled food. Our bear’s sheer bulk and malevolent eyes convinced us that he was fully capable of doing exactly that. But he never did.
If only we had taken care of the little thing, taking out the trash, we would never have had the big problem with our large, uninvited guest.
Sin, like trash, stinks.
It’s easy to rationalize the small stuff; a bad attitude, a little white lie, a sharp tongue. We reassure ourselves that we’ll clean up our act soon. But it’s so easy to let things slide, and all that sin just begins to pile up.
Oh, we can sanitize it; bag it up so we don’t notice the ugliness and stench of it. But God knows what’s inside. “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account“. (Hebrews 4:13)
And sooner or later someone or something will come along and that awful bag of sin will get ripped open. When that happens, we can no longer deny the ugliness of it.
So what do we do? How do we get rid of it?
First we must confess it, knowing “God is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). A simple, heartfelt admission of guilt is all it takes: “God, You’re right about this, and I’m wrong. I really blew it. Please, forgive me.” Just a sincere apology that He is so quick to hear. An apology that leads to a change of heart, a change of attitude, and a change of behavior.
God not only forgives, He also gets rid of all that stinking sin for us.
The sooner we do it the better. Before the sin becomes a habit. And like that bear, one that is much harder to get rid of.
So let Him take the trash out for you.
1. Hebrews 4:13 says “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” So take a few minutes. Ask the Lord to show you any sin you are allowing to pile up in your life. If there, confess it to Him. Receive His forgiveness.
2. Rejoice in this truth: “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” Romans 6:14
Father, I know I cannot hide anything from You, for You see into the very depths of my heart. I long to be clean in Your eyes. Would You please show me where I am allowing sin to build up? Thank You that You are waiting for me to confess it as sin, so You can cleanse and forgive me when I do.