At church today a woman gave an analogy that was very powerful for me. She spoke of cleaning out a shed and then having a bunch of household garbage to add to all she wanted to throw away. The end result was her garbage can was overflowing with messy, stinking gunk. Cantaloupe rinds drizzled all over discarded papers that were already soggy with dead dirty diapers...it was this incredible pile of stinking mess. As she was working out in her garden she saw the garbage truck come to haul it away and was feeling very glad to have it all gone.
Then it hit her. It would be down right foolish for her to jump in her car and go chasing down to the local landfill to bring that garbage back. She was just grateful to be rid of the mess and wanted to let it stay gone.
That image became an object lesson for her for how too many times in life when we have personal messes we need to clean up, areas of poor judgment or sin, we have a tougher time letting it stay gone. We may initially go through the motions of changing directions, clearing up some bad communication with someone we care about, or apologizing for some act that may have hurt someone we love. We try to move on, learn from our mistakes, repent. But sometimes (especially when we know the things we've done have hurt others and all the "I'm sorry" in the world can't take that hurt back) there is that ONE certain thing that we just don't stop feeling bad about. We may continue to berate ourselves or to feel unworthy because of something in our past, something that feels just too horrible to be forgiven for.
The woman spoke of the power of the atonement and how this gift of grace takes away ALL our sins, even the really gross and stinky ones, just as surely as the garbage man hauled away her trash. She said she hoped she could have more trust and confidence in that healing power of forgiveness and stop calling up to mind errors from the past.
I could totally relate to this story. Next time I fall into this trap I hope I can stop and think about the trash can story and let my dirty rot stay where it belongs.