It was profound. It was offensive. It was remarkable how something so small and insignificant could produce such a rancid smell that literally hit me like a wall. The wry observation from Hollywood echoed in my head, “It’s quite pungent“.

This nasal affront came while performing a routine task taking out a garbage bag to the bin a number of weeks back. The weather was still very warm and the humidity was high. So as I lifted the lid on the bin to make my contribution to the pile, that is when the sickening waft escaped.

I could not figure out how putrid this garbage bin could be! We tie our kitchen bags up and typically place them in larger bags in the bin. Where was this coming from? As I made my way back into the house, the smell hung all around me like a swarm of blackflies. It smelled like death. On garbage day I happily rolled our bins out to the edge of the driveway for the collection. I felt pity for the poor fellow who would be lifting off that lid in order to empty it into the back of the dump truck. I heard you get used to smells and block them out eventually, but should you really get used to this? I think these guys really need to get paid more.

The mystery was solved at the end of the day when I retrieved the empty bins from the road. The smell was still there! Horrified, I slowly peered inside to discover a mass of black remains of the largest maggot carcasses I have ever seen. They had obviously been down there a long time. How anything so small can emit such a foul smell is beyond my comprehension. As I was hosing out the bin, a scripture passage came to mind,

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” James 5:16

Sins are those things we like to tie up in little bags and hid under lids so no one discovers what we are really like. Most of us are appalled when we hear of paparazzi digging around in the garbage cans of celebrities hoping to discover something unsavoury. When sin is left to stew unattended, it leads to death. And death will eventually start to smell. Over time we can get used to our own smell, but others may begin to notice it. Our attitude and speech may change, and our behaviour may look different, and not in a good way.

Having friends who we allow to take the lid off and ask us the hard questions is not easy, but so important for healed living. A moment of discomfort can bring a lifetime of freedom. But if we have such friendships where we can confess to each other, they will eventually be safe places if it becomes regular practice. Too many of us suffer in isolation.

As soon as I hosed that dirty bin out, washing away the dead maggots and brown soupy water, the smell disappeared. The bin was clean and ready to be used again. This is what good friends are supposed to do; help us identify and remove the toxic baggage from our lives. We continue walking together healed and free. Do you a friend like this? If not, ask God for one. After all, it is His idea.