Baggage Reclaim (and how to avoid it)



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“Baggage is a funny thing. The more you have of it, the heavier it becomes and the longer it takes to get there…” (An Overheard Statement of the Obvious at Glasgow Airport)

The truth is: it’s a dreary thing, lugging all that stuff around.

The meaning of the word “stuff” is up to you. It could mean material possessions, and if you’ve moved house a few times, you realise what a burden that “stuff” can be. Stuff that you’ve never seen or used for ten years gets boxed up and moved to a new storage facility deep in the recesses of your new home.

George Carlin said “A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.”

By contrast, Jesus told those he was sending on mission (in Matthew 10:5-15),
“Do not take gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff, for the laborer deserves his food.” 

Clearly, Jesus was the ultimate light packer.  Didyou seethe packing instructions?:  Don’t take any money, or a change of clothes.  In fact, leave your suitcase home.  Don’t take anything but the shirt on your back.

Perhaps Jesus gives this advice so his disciples will learn trust.  It is Jesus’ way of encouraging them to engage with the people they meet.  After all, when you don’t have enough to go on, you have to turn to those around you.

But there is another possible explanation.  The items Jesus tells his disciples to leave behind are just the kinds of things that worshipers were told to leave outside the temple before they entered.  People were to divest themselves of these things before stepping on holy ground.

So when Jesus tells his disciples to travel light, he is encouraging them to approach the whole world as if it is holy ground, a place where you can expect to encounter God.

What would it mean for you to enter your day in this way?

The worst kind of baggage, however, is not physical but emotional.

Psalm 32 expresses the profound relief that you experience when at last you are able to lay that emotional baggage to one side.

“Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be—
you get a fresh start,
your slate’s wiped clean.

Count yourself lucky—
God holds nothing against you
and you’re holding nothing back from him.”

You’re holding nothing! Imagine that. You’re free to work, to move, to dance, to give… because there is nothing holding you back.

What kind of stuff is this? What does “emotional baggage” mean?

It’s the sort of thing that wakes you up in the middle of the night making you cringe because of something you’ve done or said (or not done or said). It’s every lie you’ve told, or piece of gossip you’ve passed on, or every hurt you’ve caused (whether or not you meant to do it).

Some of these are no doubt quite trivial things that you should just shrug off and forget. Some may be more serious.You may have been cruel, or selfish. You may have committed crimes which were never found out. You may even bear on your conscience the memory of an act of adultery that devastated whole families and destroyed lives.

I’m not passing moral judgement here. As a sinner myself, I simply don’t have the right, and for every finger that I point at you there are three and a thumb pointing back at me, as they say.

So I’m not talking about the specific things that you have done. I’m talking about the sheer relief of having the burden of their memory taken from you.

Maybe right now, you are tormented by the guilt of things done. Perhaps no one else knows about it, and although you are trying to put up a good front, deep down inside you are troubled. Don’t shrug it off or explain it away. Let the force of it take you to God who waits to deal with it forever, and to take the burden from your back. The Living Bible puts it well:

“What happiness for those whose guilt has been forgiven! What joys when sins are covered over! What relief for those who have confessed their sins and God has cleared their record.”

In the opening verses, the writer uses a variety of words to describe  the condition of someone carrying that extra baggage.

The first comes from a root meaning “rebellious,” someone too proud to submit to God’s authority in their lives. The second stems from a word meaning “inadequate,” someone who misses the mark of what God intends. The third means “crooked or bent,” someone who has twisted (or perverted) that which was formerly straight and clean. It’s an unpleasant collage of ideas, suggesting soemone who has painted themselves into a corner by their own folly and is now stuck. Hopelessly stuck.

It’s the prison of the addict, loudly proclaiming that he can shake the habit any tim ehe chooses and yet, like a drowning man, pulling others down with him into the oblivion of his own selfish choices. Sin is never less than terrible.

But how do we experience those blessings of His forgiveness?

First, you have to come clean. The turning point in this psalm is verse 5, where David confesses his sin, and verse 6 where he exhorts his readers to pray to God while He may be found. This implies that there is a window of opportunity.

And it’s open now.

So first you come clean, and then you open up to the reality of what you’ve done. We have to call sin “sin.” We don’t explain it away as “faulty coping techniques due to a dysfunctional family background.” We don’t excuse it “weakness” or “just human nature.” We say, “Lord, I messed up.” We see sin as serious. Sin always erects barriers between us and God, and between fellow human beings. Thus we must take sin seriously. Confession can’t be flippant!

But there’s another vital point: We see confessed sin as forgiven.  No sin is too great to be forgiven.

Corrie ten Boom, in her book Tramp for the Lord had these words to say regarding forgiveness: It was 1947–. I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives. It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I like to think that that’s where forgiven sins are thrown. “When we confess our sins,” I said, “God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever–. Then God places a sign out there that says ‘No Fishing Allowed.’”

No visits to the Baggage Reclaim. Gone is gone.

There is no greater blessing than that of having your transgressions forgiven, your sins covered, and your iniquities not counted against you by the Lord. That blessing is available to you right now if you will confess your sins.

The Psalm continues in a great gout of joy. I want to make it my prayer for today:

“When I kept it all inside,
my bones turned to powder,
my words became daylong groans.

The pressure never let up;
all the juices of my life dried up.

Then I let it all out;
I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to God.”

Suddenly the pressure was gone—
my guilt dissolved,
my sin disappeared.

These things add up. Every one of us needs to pray;
when all hell breaks loose and the dam bursts
we’ll be on high ground, untouched.

God’s my island hideaway,
keeps danger far from the shore,
throws garlands of hosannas around my neck.

Let me give you some good advice;
I’m looking you in the eye
and giving it to you straight:

“Don’t be ornery like a horse or mule
that needs bit and bridle
to stay on track.”

God-defiers are always in trouble;
God-affirmers find themselves loved
every time they turn around.

Celebrate God.
Sing together—everyone!
All you honest hearts, raise the roof!”

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