Grace in Baggage

graceIf anyone belongs to Christ, there is a new creation. The old things have gone; everything is made new! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Ponder It.

  • How is your past negatively impacting your present?
  • How is your past positively impacting your present?
  • What piece of baggage do you most want to leave behind?

Receive It. Our past doesn’t change, but the way we view it and use it changes – thankfully. The change doesn’t automatically happen. We can cling to the past so tightly that it seems the same or even worse than it did when we experienced it. We can also misconstrue it in a way that unrealistically paints a beautiful picture over something hideous. Neither is helpful when we respond out of our own desires and preferences. God alone is the redecorator of our lives. He determines what needs to be tossed aside, recycled, reused or handed down to someone else. Baggage is not always a bad thing. Our experiences of yesterday prepared us for today. We don’t see the benefit in every situation. Some situations are simply filled with pain. We might never see the benefit, but if we can’t see God using it in our lives, we don’t need to carry it with us on a daily basis. Just because something is in our past doesn’t mean it needs to become the filters through which we experience everything. Only God needs to serve as our filter. When we let him sift everything, he brings to the surface what is necessary for a particular day, situation, season or relationship. Unless God can use it, we don’t need to regularly access it. It’s part of our baggage, but it’s in storage until God unpacks it and says, “I’m going to use this to grow you or someone else. Don’t worry. I’ll help you work through it, and when we’re done, I’ll repack it.” We can’t ignore or lug the weight of our pasts. Let’s let God decide the perfect timing of packing, unpacking, repacking, and purging.

Live It. As you pick up your purse today, ask God to reveal to you what needs to be packed for your day. Carry no more and no less.

Remembering Well Enough to Move On

It sometimes seems that families (and friends and just about anyone) keep each other in the past. We get together and recall some of the same stories about people’s faults, successes, and embarrassments. Recalling helps us connect with each other. We remember shared experiences. But we can also spend so much time and energy recalling what has happened in the past that we keep people there.

We do the same with people’s favorites. We get the same type of Christmas gift for someone year after year because they were thrilled with it one year. We find out someone’s favorite restaurant so we meet there again and again or give them gift cards even though their lifestyle, preference, or diets have changed. Of course, some favorites endure, but many do not.

Remembering is good but we can’t keep people in the past. We can’t repeat their favorites as if those will always be their favorites. We can’t continue a tradition, assuming it has always been or will always be. Traditions started somewhere and likely aren’t as longstanding as we think. We must be willing to move forward, explore, listen, and make new memories. We need to continually get to know each other. We change and grow, and we need to invite people to share their process (or leaps) with us. And we need to be willing to share our process with others as well.

Stagnancy isn’t productive, and it’s not realistic. We don’t want others holding us in the past any more than we like someone holding our head under the water. It’s stifling. We can celebrate the past and recall it with laughter and sadness, but we don’t have to stay there. We need to make more memories in the here and now. We need to remember well…and move on.

Use Your Filter

We all use filters. Yes, even those people who we’d say don’t have filters…the people who seem to have a direct link from their minds to their mouths. Others, who rarely share their opinions, might say they have the “proper” filter, only speaking when it’s absolutely essential. Perhaps you filter things through your experiences, counseling perspective, education, culture, and the list goes on. It’s important to know your filters, because if your filters are faulty, or even if the priorities of your filters are out of order, what you end up with at the end of the trail of filters won’t be as pure as you trust it to be.

For example, perhaps you’ve learned some great tools through counseling. When a problem arises, you return to those tools and the things you’ve learned and filter the problem through them. If the straining process resolves the issue, that’s all you need. You consider the solution a success.

Or, perhaps an issue comes up, and you can tie it to your education. You can chart the flow of information or organization because of what you’ve been taught, so as you strain the issue through your education, it all pretty much falls into place and makes sense. You can explain it, so from your perspective, the issue is resolved.

Maybe you find yourself in a situation that reminds you of a past experience. You remember what worked and what didn’t, so you determine how to respond based on what makes sense from past experiences, good and bad.

Learning from counseling, education, and experiences is important, even essential, to moving forward in life at times. Yet if they’re your primary filters, you’re missing out on something. Until our primary filters are God’s Word, we’re going to let some things through that aren’t His truth, and we might filter some things out that are. God’s Word has to be the first filter, not the last resort. We can’t run to it as a self-help book when we’ve exhausted all our other resources. It’s the top filter, where we initially pour our problems, issues, relationships, and questions. All other filters are secondary.

Know your filters. Don’t just assume because you are a Christian, you stand firmly on God’s Word in all situations and relationships. You might say you fully trust God, but do you, really? Are you letting Him consume every single moment of your life, every decision you make? Do you run to Him before anything and everyone else, then trust Him to guide you to the right resources and people He’s placed in your life? If you trust Him, really trust Him. And if you don’t, you can start right now, today, by asking Him to begin filtering every aspect of your life. You can depend on Him.

For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. (Psalm 66:10, HCSB)

There’s a Limit to Your Baggage

There’s only so much of your past God will allow you to take into your future.

So the Israelites remained stripped of their jewelry from Mount Horeb onward. (Exodus 33:6)

Knowing what we take into our future is limited is comforting…until we consider we might not get to take the things we want. We don’t like not having control. But the truth is, if left up to us, we’ll take stuff God never intended us to carry and things that will get in our way and we’ll fail to take some of the stuff that we’ll actually need.

We simply don’t have the perspective to know what God will use and how He’ll use it. We don’t have the perspective to know what we need to hang onto, at least for a season, and what we need to leave behind.

It’s not just the stuff of the past, present, or future; it’s our thought process that surrounds it all. It’s how much we let it consume us or how much we choose not to focus on and learn from something. It’s choosing our own way instead of God’s.

Let God do your packing and unpacking. He knows the trip ahead of you.

When God Calls You Back

God doesn’t want us to get stuck in our past. However, He uses our past for our present and future.

When we get stuck, ashamed, overwhelmed, and burdened about our past, it’s not God working in us. He doesn’t steep us in the negative. He certainly reminds us of it. He wants us to remember the lessons we’ve already learned. He wants us to remember His mercy and peace through bad decisions and chaos. He wants us to see the line of memorial stones He has had us stand to commemorate the moments He has been faithful in our lives. That line of memorial stones points us toward His faithful provision of the future.

But God only pulls us back in order to catapult us forward. Like a pull back race car.

Ready? Feel the tension of being pull backward? Let God pull you to just the right tension, because when He’s ready, and you’re set, you…will…GO!

Ready, set, go

Reinventing the Wheel

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! (Romans 5:17)

dont-waste-your-time-to-reinvent-the-wheel“Reinventing myself is exhausting.”

My friend’s Facebook made me think. Why would someone want to reinvent herself? I understand the desire for change in one’s life, but I was saddened my friend felt she had to expend the energy, make the decisions, and determine the direction of her development. God does a better job. He has the knowledge, strength, and insight to guide and provide in exactly the best direction. In our own efforts, we’ll spin in circles. Instead of reinventing ourselves, we simply have to respond. We receive God’s grace and proceed in obedience.

We must accept God’s grace, and it comes at a price. Grace requires we give up our little gods of self-sufficiency, which includes the assumption we can do or make something better on our own. We can believe in God’s grace while living out of our self-sufficiency, but we can’t fully grasp both. We can choose not to access his full grace. It’s as if we cling to trying life partially on our own, and as we see ourselves falling short, we might think God has fallen short.

As we experience disappointments, we might consequently make assumptions about what God could have or didn’t do. The baggage we carry affects how we approach and handle future experiences. When our motivation to accept God’s grace and respond to Him in obedience is overshadowed by our motivation to do things our own ways, we grow away from God. Let’s choose growth toward Him instead.

As you make decisions today, determine whether you’re more motivated by your own rationale and priorities or God’s guidance?

Ask God to help you set aside your god of self-sufficiency for the God of all-sufficiency.

The Baggage We Want, The Baggage We Don’t

il_340x270.304052686Some of our baggage is burdensome. We wish we could leave it behind, shove it in a closet, perhaps even burn it. The past can be weighty. But there are times we miss baggage.

When my husband and I were on vacation, we met a couple who only had one of their bags arrive with them. The other was lost. They had packed their own suitcases, so all of her clothes arrived but none of his had. (By the way, it’s always a good idea to swap one or two outfits into each other’s bags. Not to mention, pack a change of clothes and basic, trial-size toiletries in the carry-on bags.) Her bag was over the allotted weight, so she had shifted all the toiletries to his bag. They had no toothpaste, shampoo, or sunscreen. They could get the basic toiletries at the front desk, and they found sunscreen in the gift shop…for $30. He also bought the overpriced swim trunks and tank, looking like the ultimate island tourist. As the week progressed, we got updates. Their friends arrived and shared some of their things. They went into town and did a bit of shopping. Then, five days into the trip, the luggage arrived. Somehow, they had to fit all the extras into their two bags to make it home without additional costs.

All our baggage isn’t bad. It gives us what we need in specific situations. We don’t need to carry it all with us everywhere we go, but we’ll certainly miss it when we don’t have access to some of it some of the time.

Sift through the baggage of your life. Don’t pack it all. Take what you need. Don’t burden yourself, but be prepared.