The Parable of Waste Management

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” ~ John 8:32


Each morning’s routine was different, but there was always a routine.

It went something like this:

Four o’clock wake-up call, two cups of decaf coffee (half teaspoon Splenda, one small splash French vanilla cream); 10 minutes of Seinfeld; 4:30 dress for run with all the attire perfectly placed on the guest bedroom floor the preceding night; out the door at 5 for a three-mile run; back in the door at 5:40 (give or take); think about breakfast for the twins; lay out their matching clothes for the day; shower; then wake-up call for everyone else in the family, and the madness begins.

Parable of Waste ManagementAnd Monday mornings were especially exciting since it was garbage pickup day.

Jenna was totally OCD.


Her organizational skills trumped all others. She was super wife, super mom, super friend, super bank vice president; super community volunteer and super everything. Schedule and a daily checklist were her inspiration, all coordinated from the calendar and notes of her mini Ipad. She managed an unmanageable schedule with total, masterful control.

Almost always.

If she could only control her garbage…


Weekly curbside garbage pickup came to Jenna’s quiet cove about 10:15 every Monday morning. Around 5 p.m., each Sunday, Jenna wheeled the garbage can to its proper place near the driveway curve and parked it at a proper 90 degree angle adjacent to the street. It brought a certain feeling of triumph each Monday morning when the garbage was picked up, and hauled away.

Checklist. Check.

The garbage was gone, hauled to a distant landfill, and never seen again. Sort of.

As much as she loved taking the garbage out and sending it way, one thing still really nagged at Jenna. It was her trash can. Specifically, the bottom of her trash can.

Every two weeks, Jenna made a trip to Wal-Mart to stock up on household supplies. Garbage bags were almost always on the Ipad list, and Jenna didn’t skimp for the cheap bags. She bought the 40-ply, scented bags that held everything and covered up the odors accumulated by a family of four each week.

But frequently, there was a problem with the bags, and for someone like Jenna, it was a nagging problem she could never quite release.

No matter how carefully, how strategically, how methodically, Jenna Parable of Waste Managementplaced items in the trash can, something always seemed to pierce the best bags money could buy, and what remained behind was awful.

Whatever pierced the trash bag on a given week facilitated the dripping stuff that quietly oozed to the bottom of the can. Spoiled milk, spaghetti sauce, yogurt, all the disgusting liquids that never stay in the tightly wrapped boneless chicken breast package.

They all made their way to the bottom – a collective, offensive concoction – the foulest of reminders of the family’s garbage – and it was putrid. Every week.

Each Sunday evening, Jenna would take the garbage out, pleased to send it on its way, only to come back to the trash can, see the remaining filth, stare it down, and curse it. She washed it thoroughly with bleach every week, but it always came back. Some weeks what remained was less grotesque than others, but, in some form, it was always there.

She often wondered what it would be like if there were a garbage bag that could hold everything. Everything? …and be sent away forever so she could move on to other things.


Own It. Just Don’t Carry it Around.


Two men are friends, and moreover, partners in business. Let’s call them Joe and Mike.

At their place of business, they have a petty cash drawer, and they also maintain several hefty bank accounts.

Over time, and here and there, Joe snares a $20 from petty cash for a quick lunch. Mike knows it all the time, but never says a word. This goes on for years, and because Mike hates conflict, he just goes with the flow, never says a word, but the petty cash thing is always on his mind.

And time marches on.

Years later, Mike has a business lunch meeting with a client. It turns into a $5,000 cash deal on the spot. In a moment of weakness, Mike puts the $5,000 in his pocket and buys himself a shiny new red golf cart for which he’s longed. Never, ever, has Mike done anything like this before.

moral conscienceSomehow, Joe gets wind of Mike’s trespass, and there’s a confrontation. A bad one.

Immediately, Mike acknowledges his mistake, apologizes to his partners, employees and their many clients. He comes clean, and the partnership remains intact, but it’s never quite the same.

Joe and Mike’s business flourishes for years beyond the conflict, and as in any business, there are moments of differences of opinion. On each occasion of disagreement, Joe reminds Mike of his $5,000 transgression, and yet shows no remorse for his ongoing fetish with the petty cash drawer.

owning your sinsBecause Mike came clean on the spot years ago, he feels a certain freedom from his failure, and really wishes Joe would own his past shortcomings as well. But for some reason, Joe will always see Mike as the greater transgressor, and he’ll never let him forget it.

And time marches on.

The Relativism of Wrongness

We see it every day. In business, in marriages, in the church and all about. Because their shortcomings were more public, more consequential, more “sinful” than another, we rates our sins on a scale of 1-10, and one person judges another to justify him/herself.

The saddest thing about days like today (Sunday) is that millions of people will go to their chosen place of worship, walk in with the baggage of the past believing in their own “unworthiness,” and it’ll be reinforced by others who manage their own shortcomings through the relativism of wrongness. The bad things they’ve done aren’t nearly as bad as the guy next to them.

And time marches on.


My dad didn’t go to church often, but he came along with mom and me occasionally.

On the first Sunday of each month, we’d celebrate communion, go to the front of the church, kneel at the altar and take the bread and wine. We’d stand, pew by pew, line up and march single-file to the altar. But dad always stayed behind. He felt unworthy of communion simply because he believed his sins carried a great weight than the rest of us, and nothing could’ve been further from the truth.


The Low Cost of Ownership

As for Joe and Mike, I know Mike pretty well. Boy, do I know Mike.

Conflict avoidance is a killer for guys like Mike and me. Avoiding the issue at hand creates some messy junk, and with the junk comes consequences. And it never helps the matter that guys like Joe remind us about the past, especially when they haven’t “owned” their own “lesser” sins, and the Mike’s of the world already know how much they screwed up.

“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of good, is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. ~ Romans 7:18-19

The irony??? Yes, Mike’s momentary lapse in judgment caused a lot of collateral damage, but none, more so, than to himself. But there’s good news about Mike’s ownership of the past. His forgiveness, was not only instantaneous, but free, because the price was already paid.

The Principle of Baggage Weight Restrictions. The Airlines can Teach us a Thing or Two About a Thing or Two.

Today, Dana and I are preparing for an extended, four-month trip outside the states. That’s a long time, and we’re confounded by how to pack. Honestly, we need to take everything and the kitchen sink, but we can’t because there are baggage weight restrictions. Too much baggage, and we’ll pay the price. We simply can’t take everything we own. The cost is just too high. We can’t afford it.

the baggage of past sin

Oh, the freedom of two carry-ons. Walk off the plane, sail through the airport and catch a cab. Now, the carry-ons may have a lot in them, and they may become uncomfortable at times, but I’ll just switch shoulders and transfer the weight’s burden. No big deal. At least I don’t have to stand at the carousel and watch the bags endlessly go round and round and experience the cumbersomeness of it all.


“How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit! When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning (suffering) all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’; and you forgave the guilt of my sins.” ~ King David in Psalm 32:1-5

sin and baggage consequences of sinFor the period during which David covered his sins, the scripture tells us his bones literally groaned with agony. The one way – the only way he could be set free, was to own his transgressions.

The Great Debate: Grace-Based Forgiveness vs. Earth-Based Consequences

We must get this. Forgiveness and consequences are two entirely different things.

Murder, theft, abortion, adultery – name whatever bad sin you choose. The forgiveness is a 100 percent free, immediate, never-look-back kind of thing. We don’t get it, deserve it or comprehend it, but it’s true. The consequences – they may last for a lifetime and we simply must own them, accept them and learn from them.

So it plays out like this:

For Mike:

  • He’s a good guy who screwed up.
  • But he came clean. He owned his mistake and was freely forgiven.
  • There were some consequences. Colleagues never quite fully trusted him again. Friends gossiped about him. Though free, he still sometimes regretted he’d violated his own moral conscience. But he move on, grateful for grace.
  • He became an example to others, and was admired by many.
  • He doesn’t like to fail, but when he does, he’s okay with it, because he’s free.
  • He still had a purpose in life.

For Joe:

  • His life continued as well. And he never did anything really, really bad.
  • He always held himself in a position of higher esteem than Mike, because he knew the things he’d done wrong were never as bad as what Mike had done.
  • When he did do something wrong, he always had Mike’s greater transgression in his back pocket.
  • But somehow, for some unknown reason, Joe forever more carried a chip on his shoulder because he had a secret – at least so he thought.
  • He carry’s his failures around, and they are heavy.
  • He never really felt real peace or freedom.

Mike and Joe are both good guys. They really are. But whose example will you follow?

And time marches on…