“No one has access to the trash can.”
A coworker uttered these words as she trained me on the hosting platform for our organization’s website and blog pages. She was encouraging me to get to know the system by exploring. Most things could be created without being published to the public site. The only thing I shouldn’t do, she said, was delete stuff, because “no one has access to the trash can.” In other words, whatever I deleted would be gone forever, unretrievable.
Even in that moment, I felt there was a greater life lesson in her words. Pondering them later, I first thought about how we must be careful about what we discard from our lives because those decisions can be irrevocable. Sometimes we end lifelong friendships in momentary lapses of judgment. Sometimes we discard the best bits of who we are based on what others think. Eventually, we may find ourselves wishing for access to the trash can.
Then I started to think of the phrase differently. What about the things we keep trying to retrieve from the trash can but which should just stay in there? The list is probably infinite, but it might include past failures, hurts that have healed, sins we’ve forgiven, and the sins we’ve been forgiven of. We pull them out and replay them, allowing them to hold power over us.
My tendency, usually aided by the voice of an enemy, is to sift through my trash can on a regular basis. I remember the failures and sins and hurts of the past as though they just happened. I can’t let go of or forget them, so they continue to define who I am. They tell me I’m a sinful, wounded failure who will never change. They prevent me from seeing the truth of the present, the truth of my identity in Christ.
What if we lived as though we don’t have access to the trash can?
Some of the things I read in the Bible make me think God wants us to live this way. These verses especially convince me:
He will not constantly accuse us,
nor remain angry forever.
He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:9–12 NLT)
He tells us he puts our sins away at an immeasurable distance. In other words, he puts them in the trash can and doesn’t pull them back out again. God knows everything, yet he chooses not to remember our sins. If he makes this choice, shouldn’t we?
How different life could be if we believed the trash can was inaccessible. The hurts and sins of the past would reside there, forgotten, unable to distract or define us. We could live in the freedom of knowing they can never be held against us. We could live in the unfailing love of a God who forgives.
Katie Mumper is a daughter, sister, friend, writer, and singer. She loves Jesus, music, books, and great TV shows. Because she’s far from perfect, she is grateful for God’s grace in her life. She writes with the hope that others might be encouraged to let God make them new as well. You can read more of her work at beautyrestored.me.
Photograph © Thought Catalog, used with permission