As human beings living in a messed up world, we all handle baggage.
We drag our own around. We help our friends sort through theirs. We watch our parents stuff their share of it into closets (after they shove the skeletons aside).
When we’re living in constant communion with Christ, we give Him our baggage. As soon as we make it, we hand it over. The problem arises when we get out of sync with Jesus, and start relying on ourselves instead of on Him.
You listened to me talk about baggage at MODFEM 2016. We focused mainly on The Dad Bags, but after collecting the paper suitcases that were tossed in front of the platform, I can easily say…we’re all dealing with way more than just Father Figure Issues.
Once the music was over and the gym was empty, I gathered up all of the paper suitcases. I expected to look through them and pray for mostly insignificant burdens, like annoying little sisters or not having an iPhone.
What I read literally knocked me over.
So I sat on the cold floor, my lap overflowing with broken hearts, wondering how it could be. Just minutes ago, I had been looking out on a crowd of eager faces unmarred by the stress and heartache that was written on those paper suitcases.
How often we see the quick smile and feel the squeeze of a half-hug and think—she’s fine! She’s got it together. If she needed help, she’d ask for it. But so much of what I read was nowhere near fine. Tears fell as I read the tiny glimpses into the things we’ve been carrying around.
“I don’t understand my feelings.”
“A LOT OF SHAME.”
“Worry and stress.”
“Beaten. Abused. Raped. Ruined. Used.”
“I’ve wanted to die.”
“So many boyfriends.”
“Feeling unloved and unwanted.”
How do we handle all of this baggage? Sitting in a pile of so much pain, the only thing I could think to do was pray. Consistent, compassionate prayer is what I can do for you, and I do it most days. Did you know that someone out there is praying for you? I keep all of the paper suitcases in an orange folder and I take them out to think of you and pray. But what can you do for yourself? Here are a few ideas for being an effective Baggage Handler.
- Buddy System
It’s not just for elementary school field trips! Any time you find yourself venturing into unfamiliar, unpredictable or potentially scary territory—take a friend. Don’t expect any of your peers to be prepared or equipped to help you completely work through your baggage, but be sure that someone knows what you’re going through. A buddy can help you hold onto the end of your rope (if you come to it) and identify when it’s time to ask for more help (which we often can’t see for ourselves when things get tough).
- Stay Connected
The easiest time to fall or be led away from Jesus if when isolation sets in. The devil can’t get a foothold if he has to step in between you and your family, friends and pastor! Independence is not what Christians are called to. Remember the cheetah and the gazelles? The hunter will always go for the easiest prey: the very old, the very young, the weak, and the loners. When we embrace a culture of inter-dependence, we learn to live in true community with one another. Be aware of becoming too close to people who encourage you to skip youth group or stay home from church events. Nothing good grows in darkness, and that includes relationships.
- Be vulnerable
When you find a sibling, friend, or adult you trust, pray for a willingness to open up. The Bible tells us that “a brother is born for adversity, and a friend loves at all times,” Prov. 17:17 NIV. Love can just be a listening ear; love can be a 2 A.M. milk shake! Love can also be stepping outside of your comfort zone, even if your friend asks you not to. Beloved counselors in my life have always told me that there are 3 instances where keeping secrets becomes dangerous: when a person has a plan for hurting themselves, when a person has a plan for hurting someone else, or when a person is habitually being hurt by someone in their life. Include a trusted youth leader or adult if the bags are too big for you to handle. The more we tell the truth—even when it means risking rejection—the easier it becomes to be honest. No matter how scary it is, we all need somebody to lean on!