Whether they are hanging on a rack at the department store or flashing across my television screen on QVC, they are a thing of beauty. I love all the different styles and colors and think, “I should be one of those women who takes full advantage of the purse as an accessory.”
Of course, when I get the purse home reality sets in, and I realize that’s not me. I become busy, and who cares what the bag looks like, it’s all about functionality. Rather than changing my purse daily to match a new outfit, I just keep grabbing the same bag day after day and stuffing more and more things into it until it is eventually full to overflowing. It’s at this point that the once beautiful accessory now disgusts me as I contemplate the fact that I either need to clean it out or find a bigger bag so I can carry more stuff.
In the end, practicality wins out and I chose to take a few minutes, empty my bag and start sorting through it trying to figure out what is taking up all of the space.
Of course, the big things come out first: wallet, eyeglasses, lipstick, and the bazillion tiny little frequent buyer cards from any store I’ve ever visited.
Then the sorting process begins—sorting through papers, receipts, old coupons (I’m terrible with coupons. I clip them and then forget to use them before they are expired. Basically, I cut them out of the newspaper; carry them around with me for a few weeks until they expire and then I throw them away. But this is beside the point). I find candy wrappers, old church bulletins, even grocery lists for groceries that were long ago purchased and consumed---all taking up valuable space in my bag.
Honestly, it doesn’t take more than a few minutes to realize that the problem of why my bag is too heavy or why I can’t fit anything into it has nothing to do with the beautiful purse I purchased. No, the problem is all of the trash I’m carrying around!
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the solution to the problem is sorting out the trash and putting it where it belongs---not in my purse, but in a garbage can. Because that’s what you’re supposed to do with trash---get rid of it, throw it out, dispose of it and move on with your life.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the fact that what’s true of purses is also true of life. Too often, I am guilty of carrying around garbage and letting it take up valuable space in my heart and mind. Hurtful things people said, false accusations, lies, gossip, or fearful thoughts. Like the garbage filling my handbag, these things begin to weigh me down as I drag them along with me giving them a far greater place of importance than they truly deserve.
Recently, I went through a situation where someone felt the need to vent the full weight of their frustration on me. Trust me, their guns were loaded with feelings, anger, and their opinion of the way things should be changed to fit their prerogative. After the interaction there was absolutely no doubt in my mind that they were unhappy.
Yet, in a surprisingly uncharacteristic twist, I did not feel the need to respond or react in kind. (Believe me, this was the work of the Holy Spirit). Instead, I felt an overwhelming peace come over me as the Holy Spirit spoke these words into my heart:
“What do you do with trash? You don’t entertain it, you don’t spend time analyzing it, you don't carry it around with you and take it’s smell on you. Nope—you pick it up and you dump it in the trash can where it belongs. Then you move on with your life and forget about it.”
You can’t imagine the freedom that those words spoke into my heart at that moment. What an amazing truth!!!
Essentially, this person had dumped a truckload of trash into my lap.
I knew what they were saying wasn’t true and that my heart was right before God. I also knew the situation well enough to know that they were reacting out of a huge trash heap that they’d let pile up in their heart for too long. Rather than dealing with their problems, they spread their garbage on everyone else and attacked others out of the pain in their hearts.
As much as I wish I could have helped them, the truth is that they needed to make their own personal decision to take out the trash in their life. My decision, in that moment, was whether I was going to let their trash contaminate my heart or dispose of it and continue loving and praying for this person.
Thankfully, through the grace and direction of God, I was able to do the latter. Rather than getting all upset and spreading the stink, I recognized it was trash and didn’t allow it to take up residence in my heart. Surprisingly, that decision made space in my heart to pray for the person who was bleeding so desperately in their own pain that they wanted others to hurt.
That’s how I believe Jesus wants all of us to handle the trash that comes into our lives. He doesn’t want us to carry it with us and eventually become trash collectors. No, He wants us to recognize trash, dispose of it, and then move onto helping others dispose of the trash that’s taking up too much space in their lives so they can experience His joy and freedom.
When we do follow this path, WE become people of beauty---a shining example of God’s love and redemption to the world around us. These qualities are the most attractive accessory any of us can wear---better than even the most beautiful, fashionable, handbag you’ve ever seen.