I was sitting in line at a drive through restaurant this morning and noticed a homeless lady across the street. She had a shopping cart piled high with all of her possessions. It was loaded with bins filled to the brim, bulging plastic bags, and odds and ends stuck here and there. Then I noticed she left her cart and walked back several yards where she had left another even larger make shift rolling cart filled with more things. It too was filled to capacity and had more items tied to the handles. There were four more large plastic bags on the ground beside her make shift cart.
I watched as she picked up a couple of the large bags and brought them forward to her shopping cart. After her bags were safely placed, she walked back and brought the make shift cart up to the rest of her things. Then she started the whole process again. She pushed her shopping cart forward several yards and went back for another load. There was too much for her to push everything she owned at once. It was going to take an amazing amount of time and energy to repeat this process over and over until she would make it to her destination.
This appeared to be her way of life. She was dragging all of her baggage with her wherever she went because it was either normal to her now, or she felt the baggage was worth it.
I thought about how much stuff I have collected over the years. I've lived in my house for a long time and have let things accumulate. Sure I clean it out from time to time, but inevitably some things never get pitched. Instead, I don't want to take the time to decide what value they hold for me, so I rearrange them into new categories or new plastic bins and place them back in the closet. It's easier to stack them up neatly and shove them in the corner than to deal with them. And so, I keep dragging these things through life.
As I drove home, I realized that God may have placed her in my path to learn a much needed lesson. I have stuffed spiritual baggage so deep in the corners of my heart that they have become normal to me now. It's even possible that the baggage is so tightly stored along with the good things, that I don't even realize it's there anymore. (Galatians 5:1 NIV) tells us "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free".
The homeless lady I saw this morning did not appear free. She was held captive by he carts and bags that she had to continually move with her. I'm sure some of those things were necessary. She probably had items in those bags that she used to keep herself clean or warm or fed. She may have had books she loved or documents she needed. She might have had pictures of loved ones or a notebook of addresses and phone numbers. But she had bags and bags that had become attached to her and were requiring her constant time, energy and attention as she moved through life pulling them forward. I wondered if she even knew where her important things were inside all that baggage.
I began to wonder what kinds of unnecessary items were stuffed in with my own important things that were taking my time, energy and attention. What kinds of things were still deep in the bags and stored in my heart? What was I dragging with me that I needed to let go of? I have ongoing struggles with unbelief and lack of discipline that I'm working through with God, but I've held tightly to the guilt that came with them. I've stored feelings of condemnation that came along with failures even when God tells me He doesn't condemn us. What if I sorted through those bags and started pitching the guilt and condemnation? What had God placed in my heart that I could no longer find because it was hidden in the baggage?
As I searched my own bags, I found some treasures. I found the dream of spending more hours with my kids in conversation, the desire to be more engaged in the way I already serve in my church, and the dream of being an ear to young women who just need to talk. As I dug through the bins, I even pulled out the dream of more time to be creative with paper and paints and the desire to capture our lives with photography.
I realized that these things would bring some of the fruits of the Spirit that I found in that same chapter of Galatians. The fruit of love and joy would grow in the atmosphere of relaxing with my kids. Faithfulness would flourish as I put more energy into serving in my church. Gentleness could show up as I talked with young women who needed a shoulder. My rest would be more peaceful after allowing my creativity to have its rightful place in my life.
What can we let go of to make room for those things God has placed in our hearts? We all have big dreams that we've stuffed into bags and placed in the back of the closet. If we throw out the guilt and shame and disappointment we've been dragging with us, we will be free to pursue those things that were hidden in the baggage.
I don't want to keep dragging that heavy stuff with me. I don't want to keep retracing my steps to bring all that old baggage along as I try to move forward. I want to focus on what God is doing in my life today. I want to let go of the stuff and move forward in His freedom.
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." (Gal 5:1 NIV)
Sharon enjoys spending time with her energetic adult children Shannon, David and daughter-in-love Amanda. She's a full time xray tech and enjoys serving on the Production Team in her local church. She desires to live out Isaiah 61:1 as God opens doors to share her story.