Sunday, May 24, 2009

Baggage (from the archives)

All travelers have baggage. What gets packed and what gets left behind is often difficult to understand and is a uniquely personal decision.

With regard to the bag itself, some are designer, sturdy, matching pieces, carefully monogrammed, in trendy colors and as functional as we can make them for carting about. They have wheels, handles, and are carefully labeled. Sometimes we are proud to be seen carrying this baggage, as it can reflect our personality and uniqueness.

Others might carry a faded trunk that has been passed down for generations, tied together with twine, and certainly not much to look at. Some of it may be heavily labeled with stickers, marks, and scuffs designating where it has been.

Other baggage might be in a sack from a retail store. The intention was that it was to be carried temporarily, but even though the handle is broken and there’s a hole in the bag leaking contents, we continue to carry it from place to place because it is convenient and familiar.

Some of the baggage may have been received from others. It may have marked the passage of something important and was considered an appropriate gift on the road to maturity.

Some of it we picked up along the way because it suited our needs at the time. But as our life has changed, we no longer need it, but are reluctant to get rid of it because we might just need it again someday.

Some of it is borrowed. We may not have enough of our own. We may think that we are only going to carry it for a little while, but sometimes it ends up in our own closets.

Some smaller bags are surprisingly heavy. The sheer weight of the bag can tire us and sap our strength. When we are young, our shoulders can carry the bag. As we get older, we try to get help in some way…removing contents, asking for assistance in carrying the bag, or shipping it ahead to be dealt with later.

The only common thread is that we all have baggage. For some it is to hold things for our convenience, use and remembrance. The bags are assigned to our care, and we take ownership of them.

Of course, Jesus says to release this ownership on several fronts.

First of all…those who are weary and heavy laden…but why in the world would He suggest that we would be weary and/or heavy laden? I think it is because He knows our willingness and capacity to carry baggage. He also knows how tiring it can be. He knows that a rest from it, or elimination of it, is the only way that we will ever make it in this world.

Another statement he makes is about things…He doesn’t want us to get so attached to “things” because He knows if we do, we have a particular fancy to baggage, and this is not in our best interest. If you consider that a lot of the verses in the Bible that deal with materialism could actually be taken to mean fascination with “stuff” – or namely, baggage, then we could see that this is not His intention for our lives at all.

Some of the gaudiest baggage I have carried around was screaming “notice me” because negative attention was better than no attention at all. I envied those who had the perfect bags, and had assistance in carrying them without having to ask. I carefully packed my bags with anger, guilt, shame, and rage and then insisted on carrying them myself to prove to everyone that I could.

Later, when the novelty wore off, my back was tired, and my mind exhausted from considering the contents, I decided that I wanted to free myself of it. Over time, I'd work through an issue...and take the virtual two steps forward. Unfortunately, empty bags are mighty handy vessels to be refilled. So, the pattern of packing and unpacking became well established.

By the way, this works for awhile… until you begin to want something better for yourself. As you go through the motions of life, you start seeing the patterns that you are doomed to repeat. When the baggage got left behind, instead of running, I just started putting the junk in garbage bags. Although they were not nearly as large or full as before, were considered temporary and therefore much more manageable, they still existed. The pattern of my life was not broken. And the old bags I left behind? Well, some got lost permanently, some I actually managed to drag out to the curb for pickup, but others somehow got forwarded to my new address.

In the grand scheme of things, the baggage that is yours is meant to be relieved only by Him…in His timing…and in His power. We try often to relieve ourselves of the baggage by sharing the carrying of the baggage with our friends and associates. They don’t have the capacity, really, to carry their own baggage…much less ours…because the point is that we don’t need to be carrying so much anyway.

We really only need to carry what we need for today, and that which God has placed in our care. The baggage of our own choosing is often hauled around from place to place serving no purpose whatsoever other than tiring us or making us fodder for the Enemy.

Sometimes having people help us with the load actually increases the ownership time. God doesn’t want us to really “own” anything. Especially not something that belongs to someone else and must be presented at His feet to be relieved of eventually anyway. By allowing others to trip over their baggage, they are more likely to effectively manage it than they are if we try to help. Short term help is fine, but before you pick up a bag, you must know how long you are willing to carry it and set that boundary.

Baggage becomes very complicated when it is mixed with everyone else’s. Looking at the endless stream of bags as they come around a carousel at an airport with everyone staring intently to find their bag, secure it, and get out of the way of everyone else is the way that many people view the world. Wouldn’t it be easier if you just didn’t have to wait on the bag? What would you do if there was no bag to pick up? What if everything you needed you already had? Not only would it save time, but it would save the effort of having to keep up with it.

The truth is that you already do have everything you need. If you don’t, you either don’t really need it and just think you do, or you believe more in your own timing than in God’s. The secret is to get through this life with as little baggage as possible. Store your treasure in heaven, and then you don’t need any bags here to clutter up your closets or store the junk that comprises most of the bags anyway.

Part of the weariness in the world today is that people have more maintenance time assigned to the things and baggage they carry than they do to the things in this life that really matter. Lay the bags down. Move on. Don’t even bother to unpack them. And don’t rent a mini-storage facility to keep it all, either.

The pain that most people feel is the pain associated the need to deal with the baggage – to carry it or unpack it. The best option is to just throw the whole burdensome thing away and travel lighter. He can carry your baggage straight to the place where it is remembered no more. He can free your back to be able to take on more of His work that He wants you to do. He can give you freedom in that surrender.

As the next few years of your life unfold, you will see opportunities to pick up baggage from the most unexpected sources. Do not under any circumstances pull out a Hefty bag and think for a minute that you can leave it at the curb. It may end up in the trunk of your car instead - where it may be forgotten about…until you smell the decay. Trust God to only give you what He wants you to carry forward, and when He urges you to let it go, then do so. You may have to carry some baggage for awhile. He may use that baggage to strengthen you for the journey. Muscle is built by stress…stressing the muscle, that is. He may choose to build your muscle for a task He calls you to and wants you to be prepared. Ask Him to help you pack lightly for the journey here, because as you know, we are all travelers in this world that is not our own. I’d rather focus on the journey itself trusting God for the preparation and provision. I want to lay my bags down at his feet. He doesn’t mind, you know.

Sorry to be deep...but this is just something important that I've learned. God has been very faithful in eliminating a great deal of baggage from my life. And for this...I am very grateful. Later!

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