Many of our members are traveling this summer, with school out, beautiful weather, and interest to see new places or revisit old familiar ones. If you have been at an airport at all in the last 17 years, you know that you’re going to have to pass through security. And you know that there will be some uniformed officials who will explain what you can and cannot bring on an airplane. You have to plan ahead, thinking about what might be on the list of prohibited items.
When Jesus sent out his disciples on trips for him, he told them this: 7 He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9 but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. Mark 6:7-9. When Jesus tells us to take nothing for the journey, it’s an opportunity to leave our baggage behind.
Jesus, like the TSA, had a list of prohibited items: no bread, no bag, no money in their belts and no second tunic. Jesus had a reason for the items he banned: They could undermine the mission on which he was sending his disciples. They were to depend on God to provide for them through the hospitality of strangers. How they traveled and were welcomed was to be itself a demonstration of God’s care. When Jesus sends us out to be his people in the world, and tells us to rely on him and thus take nothing with us, we can’t help but take along who we actually are, including the “baggage” we normally carry. And by baggage, we mean something other than suitcases or parcels. That word is shorthand for burdensome personal history we drag with us that interferes with our living fully in the present. This baggage could be nonproductive ways of dealing with conflict, inappropriate responses that are triggered at inopportune moments, unaddressed fears from childhood, psychological damage from abuse, frightening ideas about God — in fact, just about any holdover from our past that prevents us from getting on well in our relationships or with our daily responsibilities.
What can we do about our baggage? Here are some things that might be helpful in dealing with our baggage and might even help us leave some of it behind: Ask God to help us face our problems squarely and without rationalization. Admit to him the specific reaction that interferes with our relationships and keeps us from doing well. Empty the poison bottle. In other words, take a look at those whom we blame for certain of our hang-ups, and decide what we need to do to keep those memories from poisoning us today. Accept the responsibility for who we are today. In terms of understanding where our various complexes originate, it may be helpful, briefly, to look at what circumstances in our past have contributed to the shaping of our present personalities. But it’s far more important to say, “Regardless of how I got where I am, I am responsible for dealing with it now and for working to become the whole person God intended me to be.” That may even mean ignoring certain gut reactions, and behaving, instead, in ways that are more adult. Finally, lay the problem before God. I’m not suggesting that such things as counseling, support groups or psychiatry are inappropriate for baggage handling. On the contrary, sometimes they’re the first line of help. But talking to God about the scars we bear is often a vital part of the healing process.
Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? Isa. 43:18-19
Faithfully, Yours in Christ,