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Claiming Your Baggage

If you’ve ever flown from one place to another to visit, and have checked in luggage to be taken in the underbelly of the plane, then you understand the struggle of waiting for your bag to come on the baggage claim carousel. You’ve wasted precious time waiting for your bag to come around so you can catch it as it goes whirling around.

The second time I flew to San Diego, I went with a group from my student ministry. The trip was great, our luggage made it to California with us, and we didn’t miss an initial or connecting flight. When we connected in Nashville to come home, I remember being skeptical about how it was possible that there were zero hitches in the system. We didn’t have to wait long for anything (minus dinner one night), so I was honestly waiting for something to hold us up or go wrong.

It did. As soon as we got home to Norfolk.

I was waiting in the baggage claim area where all the suitcases were coming out and falling onto the conveyor belt, only to have the hitch finally happen as I waited for what seemed like an eternity for my luggage.

So, as I stood beside the conveyor belt, I noticed something fairly interesting: there were a few bags that were completely unclaimed. They circled around the loop from the time that bags started popping out until the time that I left, and were still there even after I walked away.

It’s a memory that I haven’t thought of as important or meaningful until quite recently. In my struggle and journey to being vulnerable, I’ve noticed that some issues in my life are very similar to that baggage claim experience: I don’t want to claim them as my own.

When it gets down to it, I don’t want to own up to the fact that I have integrity problems. I don’t want to admit that sometimes my thoughts aren’t wholesome, or that I act in unwholesome and sometimes downright inappropriate ways. I don’t want to be honest about the fact that I have pride issues, which keeps me from confessing my sin to others and being broken around others.

Just like the unclaimed baggage, I want to leave  my problems circling on the conveyor belt and let them exist in another realm or environment, maybe pulling them into my life when I want to indulge in the issues and let them continue.

Maybe you’re there too. Maybe you want to let your skeletons in the closet stay right where they are, piling everything in your life on top of them and go about your day. You don’t want to walk up to the conveyor belt and pull your bags off the merry-go-round and own up to the fact that it’s yours, no matter how big or small.

The ugly truth of the matter is something we never want to hear: you have to deal with your past. You have to confront your baggage and sort and sift through it in order to move past it. There will be a heck of a lot of pain. There will be loneliness. There will be hard times. And it will make burying everything down deep even more appealing.

But, the healing that comes from dealing with your baggage is so much sweeter and more beautiful than carrying it around. Just like when you break a bone and see on an X-ray where the break point is stronger than before, digging into your past sins and sorting them out will make you stronger in the future.

I have had more baggage than I care to acknowledge. I’ve sinned grievously and repeatedly, in ways that I wish I never would’ve known. I opened doors that weren’t meant for me to enter, and I’ve lived storylines that were never a part of my potential. The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do is stand face to face with my immorality and wage war against it.

This whole dealing with your baggage thing seems depressing. It seems like something that should be a dissuasion instead of a persuasion. When we deal with our baggage alone, depending on our own strength, that’s exactly how it will be. There will be despair, depression, and doubt.

But, that’s where we as Christians, those who profess Jesus as Lord and Savior and have surrendered their lives to follow Him, have hope. We are never alone. We are never bearing our burdens on our own. Not only does Jesus call us to come to Him as heavy laden people, inviting us to lay aside our weights in order to put on His easy yoke and light burden, but we have brothers and sisters in the same fight, called to help us and assist in bearing our burdens.

Just try it. Try dealing with your baggage and your past. Think about what happened, think about what should’ve happened instead, and think about what you need to do in order to make sure that never happens again. Write down your answers to those three questions so you can have somewhere to turn when temptation comes. Don’t take everything at once, it’ll smother you. Take baby steps. Ask God to give you strength to make it through your assessment of your past.

Remember the words of Paul, a man who knew what he was talking about, found in Philippians 3:13-14: “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Everyday, I still deal with my past sins. I still face the horrors and pain associated with my selfish choices. But, when I take those instances and run them through those three questions, while remembering the words of Philippians 3:13-14, I can stand up to face even the fiercest of demons, the ones that are a result of the worst sins.

Healing comes through dealing. The future comes from examining the past. Step up to the baggage carousel. Get your luggage off the conveyor belt, and claim it. The only way it can be overcome is through you doing something about it.

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