“Best if used by 02-08-04”—this being the date stamped on the can of corn I pulled out of the back of the pantry —and the oldest expiration date I came across while packing.
There were many others, in fact; I threw away more than I packed! My greatest find was a bag of Marshmallows that were so hard; they would make pellets feel like cotton balls if I were to shoot you with one.
As I stood tippy-toed on the ladder, I stared into the pantry and thought, why have I not cleaned this out before. Was I lazy? Did I feel the need to make my pantry look full? Maybe I thought if I just shoved all the cans to the back, I wouldn’t have to deal with them and then at some point, they would recognize they have out-lasted their usefulness and throw themselves away.
Who knew that cleaning out my pantry could be so profound? And to think, I thought I was missing church because I had to finish packing. Shows you what I know.
“..Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” Hebrews 12:1b-2
Not knowing why that passage of Scripture popped in my mind, I held on to the scrunched up bag chips, or crumbs as they were, and thought about the words, “lay aside every weight”.
What does expired canned food have to do with weight? Then it hits me; it’s human nature to hang on to things that we know are weighing us down. Things that are harmful for us, yet we are easily trapped by the familiar. Once again, God gives me a practical picture of what sin does to us.
In our frailty, we deceive ourselves by adding something new to our lives, we find a new system of belief, or we find a new set of friends, but we do this without cleansing ourselves of the old habits. Eventually, we become tired and weary—we feel so heavy, we get depressed. Moreover, we are confused because we don’t understand why we feel this way.
Yet, this passage of Scripture gives us a practical solution. Lay the stuff aside, other versions, say throw it away. Get rid of the things that have “expired” and are not healthy for us. Replace it with something good; this passage recommends Jesus, because He is the one who can help us and the one who can truly free us from feeling sick, tired, and depressed.
What is hindering you today? Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Don’t just add something new to your life, first get rid of the things that are weighing you down. Then there will be plenty of room for the new and healthier things and you won’t be weighed down. It doesn’t do any of us any good to look good on the surface while we have things rotting away in the deepest parts of our hearts.
The great news about looking to Jesus is that He will help us and give us the courage to turn away from the sin that holds us hostage. He does not expect us to clean up first, He desires us to call upon Him just the way we are.
Five more words come to mind from the passage in Hebrews:
“For the joy that was set before Him”
Have you ever taken the time to consider the “joy” in this passage is you and me? We are the joy that drove Him to the cross. We are why He endured the shame. Why would He do this? So that we would not have to live in bondage to our sin and shame—now this is love!
As I let go of the scrunched up bag of crumbs, I smiled with renewed excitement of the good things to come. I finished packing the box that was coming with us to the new house and I was content with how light it was.
The box of expired food, well, that box was heavy, I had to kick it all the way to the section that my husband had labeled trash—I never felt better. It was symbolic of me throwing away all the muck that I had allowed to creep into my heart and make its home there.
So what is the moral of this story?
If you ever feel like you need a little “church”, go clean out your pantry.